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Academic freedom and institutional independence is threatened by anti-democratic tendencies in several European states, including Hungary, Koloman Brenner of the opposition Jobbik party said on Tuesday, citing a resolution adopted by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).

Brenner, the author of the report the PACE resolution was based on, told a press conference that Hungary was one of the European countries that regularly ranked low in surveys of academic freedom and autonomy, along with Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey.

Freedom of education is one of the most important conservative values, Brenner said.

Brenner said the tendency to revamp educational systems on a “purely neoliberal, economic basis” was a wide-spread negative trend in Europe. Regarding Hungary, Brenner criticised the recent restructuring of tertiary education and the separation of certain research institutes from the main body of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

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He said that whereas the government’s policy of placing the operation of some higher-education institutions into the hands of foundations was not in itself wrong in principle, the Hungarian implementation of the method involved the foundations making all the decisions that, in a democracy, were usually delegated to university representatives.

He insisted that

people with ties to the [Hungarian] government often appear on the foundation boards, driving through the government’s anti-science and anti-intellectual policies.”

Brenner said he proposed generic solutions, including a unified monitoring and sanctions system in order to protect academic freedom and universities’ autonomy.

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In the resolution adopted by the PACE Standing Committee on Friday, the body called on “member States to enshrine the protection of academic freedom and institutional autonomy in national legislation, and to provide adequate public funding for higher education and research, enabling institutions to maintain their independence.”

In the featured photo: Jobbik MP Koloman Brenner. Photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI