SZFE’s 2019 film, directing, and cinematography class – with the exception of two students – is leaving the school in September to continue their studies with the support of the FreeSZFE Association. SZFE’s new leadership was outraged and criticized both the move and the previous leadership. However, according to renowned director Ildikó Enyedi, they failed to mention that SZFE’s current management’s legitimacy is owed to the previous leadership that had been forced to go.
What happened last year
Last year during summer, the Orbán administration made it clear that similar to several other higher education institutions, they aimed to restructure the University of Theater and Film Arts (SZFE) too, arguing with the need to raise its efficacy and quality. SZFE students and teachers alike, however, felt it was an attempt by the government to limit the university’s freedom and independence. Some statements from government politicians (similar to those made after the appointment of some pro-government figures on the new board of trustees), indeed confirmed that ideological considerations perhaps also played a part in the genuinely liberal institution’s ‘restructuring.’
Despite a months-long blockade of the building, protests, and several demonstrations, the government eventually pushed through its will without any consultation, resulting in the collective resignation of the university’s former administration and democratically-elected Senate.
FreeSZFE choosing new paths
Self-education association FreeSZFE’s Emergency Exit program was established after the takeover. Within the scheme’s frameworks, those leaving SZFE would be accredited by certain foreign universities, but training will still be held at FreeSZFE in Budapest by the teachers who had previously decided to step down.
Therefore, the 2019 class will join this program in order to continue their studies with their original teachers according to their original curriculum.
SZFE new leadership outraged
As the news about the mass departures became public, SZFE’s new leadership said it “acknowledged with great sadness” efforts by “an unaccredited self-education association” to “entice” its students to another training program that offers no diploma recognized by the state.
In their statement SZFE also criticized previous leadership, saying that the former management had left the school “in a state of ruin” and used SZFE students “as tools to hinder the successful paradigm shift and renewal of SZFE.”
SZFE said the “scheme to remove a group of students” would “deprive them of the opportunity offered by instruction at SZFE, a state accredited institution of higher education that has undergone a complete renewal and now offers an outstanding technical educational foundation.”
They also noted that the number of applications they received to study at the university this year is much more than the 130 newly-enrolled first-year students.
Enyedi: New leadership fails to note that accreditation can be owed to the old staff
Prize-winning, world-class Hungarian film director, Ildikó Enyedi, on the other hand, drew attention to the fact that current SZFE staff communicates condescendingly about FreeSZFE, while its very legitimacy is owed to the current members of the FreeSZFE movement and their years of previous work in the institution.
As she put it, “…when the leaders of the new SZFE disparagingly say that students have chosen a self-education association instead of the serious, recognized, accredited, degree-granting training they offer, they fail to mention that the people who created these accreditations (accreditation of a degree is the result of years of hard teamwork) are not currently teaching at the new SZFE. They are in the self-education association called FreeSZFE.”
featured image: one of the protests of SZFE’s students in fall, 2020; illustration by SZFE HÖK- Facebook