The Central European University’s Vienna campus has been officially opened on Friday after the American-accredited courses had to leave Budapest. At the ceremony, George Soros, after thanking Vienna for housing the institution, said that it was a moral duty for the institution to stay in Budapest.
Soros, after recalling the establishment of the university, and its being founded on the basis of helping countries just liberated from communism, revealed that thus far, it has 17,000 students, many of whom only have this opportunity to study at all.
Regarding CEU’s departure from Hungary, he said that they had successfully defended academic freedom against the attacks launched by “Viktor Orbán’s corrupt government and oppressive regime.” He added that the university gained supporters worldwide in this fight, which is, however, still ongoing, and while the American courses had to be relocated to Vienna, they would maintain their presence in Budapest, which is, according to Soros, “our moral duty, just as the protesters have stood by the university.”
Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig was also present at the ceremony and delivered a speech as well. The Social-democratic politician said that what was unthinkable before, just happened in Hungary: a scientific institution was told that it was no longer needed. He said it was evident that Vienna needed to open its gates for the institution.
He also made a reference to Budapest’s new mayor, green-liberal Gergely Karácsony, claiming that he still wants a partnership with Budapest, and that the situation is good with the capital city having elected a new mayor which “also shows that steps like the ousting of a university do not pass without consequences.”
Soros with Michael Ignatieff (r), Austria’s Minister of Education, Science and Research Iris Rauskala (l) and Michael Ludwig (l2) at the ceremony. Image by MTI/CEU/Dániel Végel
In March 2017, an amendment dubbed “Lex CEU” was submitted to the Higher Education Act which, on one hand was welcomed as something that would finally put a stop to fake foreign universities awarding fake degrees, and CEU’s ‘special’ status within the Hungarian educational system. On the other hand, the legislation was widely seen as tailor-made for the highest-ranked university based in Hungary, with the aim of forcing the departure of the “Soros university.”
After rounds of flare-up, menacing accusations, and demonstrations while CEU moved towards compromise and agreed with Bard College, the government seemed reluctant to sign the agreement, eventually leading to CEU’s December announcement about the relocation of the American-accredited courses to Vienna. The Hungarian-accredited programs are still safe to operate until 2022.
featured image via MTI/CEU/Dániel Végel