CEU to Leave Budapest in a Month in Case of Nonagreement
Miklós Halász-Szabó 2018.10.25.
The Board of Trustees of Central European University (CEU) announced today that incoming students for its U.S.-accredited masters and doctoral programs will study at a new campus in Vienna beginning in the academic year 2019-20. The Trustees authorized the move as of December 1, 2018, because the Hungarian government has not concluded an agreement allowing CEU to operate in freedom in Hungary as a U.S. institution chartered in New York State.
“We have taken all necessary actions in order to comply with Lex CEU. We have repeatedly indicated our openness to find a solution that guarantees our institutional integrity and academic freedom. We have waited as long as we possibly can,” said CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff.
But it would be irresponsible for us not to pursue arrangements to secure CEU’s future. Unfortunately, we have been forced into this decision by the unwillingness of the Hungarian government to offer an acceptable solution”
CEU has sought to remain in operation in Budapest, its home for more than 25 years. But the Hungarian Government has kept CEU in legal limbo since April 2017, the University says.
“For 18 months, we have defended our right to remain as a U.S. degree-granting institution in Budapest, but we are unable to secure the guarantees we need from the Hungarian government to preserve our academic freedom,” said Ignatieff.
CEU remains committed to Budapest and will continue to enhance the intellectual and cultural life of the city. We will maintain as much research and educational activity in Budapest as possible”
Since Lex CEU, the University has worked to find a solution that would guarantee its academic freedom. The State of New York successfully negotiated an agreement with Hungary allowing CEU to retain its American accreditation. CEU is in full compliance with the conditions required by the government, the university says.
Nevertheless, the Hungarian authorities have indicated that they would not sign the New York State agreement. All attempts to find a solution that would enable CEU to remain as a U.S. degree-granting institution in Budapest have failed.
The CEU Board of Trustees and President and Rector Ignatieff recognized the efforts of U.S. Ambassador David Cornstein. “We are grateful to Ambassador David Cornstein for his exceptional efforts to defend CEU. We also thank the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Congress, the Office of the Governor of the State of New York, and the New York State Education Department for their best efforts.”
“In addition, we thank the tens of thousands of supporters from around the world, including several dozen Nobel Prize winners, the late Kofi Annan, university leadership from Oxford to Columbia to Stanford, and thousands of Hungarian academics and individuals. We will never forget your support and your friendship,” Ignatieff said.
In 2019-20, first-year students will start in Vienna, and will receive U.S.-accredited degrees. Already enrolled students may remain in Budapest to complete their degrees. Further decisions on locations for staff and faculty will be made in consultation within the CEU community.
In response to the CEU press conference, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács branded Ignatieff’s statement as “a political bluff” on the part of US billionaire George Soros, the CEU’s founder and main benefactor. He said the CEU “will continue to operate in Hungary today, and, in our opinion, in the future too.”
He said the government “does not respond to political bluffs”.
Asked about any future negotiations between the government and CEU, he said the CEU should deal with the facts of the matter “which have been made clear to them a thousand times”.
“The university very well knows what the Hungarian regulations are, but instead of actually complying with them, their response is political bluster,” the spokesman said.