By placing universities up and down the country under private foundations, the government aims to cement its power by stuffing the governing bodies with its own people, an opposition Socialist official said on Tuesday.
István Hiller, the party’s deputy leader, told an online press conference that the opposition, if it were to win the next general election in 2022, should establish a new drama and film university run by the state, given that the Fidesz government has put the current institution in private hands.
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The government, he noted, plans to transfer universities with a total of 70,000 students in Debrecen, Szeged and Pécs to foundations. Further, assets of hundreds of billions of forints would be transferred from state ownership to private foundations whose boards are set up by the government, Hiller said, adding that the move would basically terminate state-run higher education outside of Budapest.
Hiller, a former education minister, said there was every reason to expect that student numbers would be slashed after the transformation because this had been the government’s intention for a decade.
To claim that the transfer of universities to foundations improved their quality was unsubstantiated, he added. Also, he said the tuition fee for English-language education in Corvinus University would cost 760,000 forints per semester after September instead of the current 390,000 forints.
Commenting on institutional autonomy, he said the freedom of higher education depended mainly on whether the politicians that ran the country would opt to keep this centuries-long tradition.
He also cited the example of recent changes at the drama and film university SZFE, which he said demonstrated everything that the Socialists opposed in higher education. He added that he had proposed to other opposition parties that after a change of government, a new, modern and state-owned university should be set up that serves the interests of Hungarian drama and film arts and guarantees its freedom and financing independent of politics. He promised that the credits collected by SZFE students would be accepted at the new institution.
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SZFE’s previous senate and leadership announced their resignation on Aug. 31 last year, saying the foundation that took over the university on Sept. 1 under a government decree had deprived them of “all essential powers”.
featured image via Zoltán Balogh/MTI