Sunday 18 August 2019

Orban will not bend to EU pressure to soften laws on international universities after Soros college row


Liberal philanthropist George Soros. Photo: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire
Liberal philanthropist George Soros. Photo: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

Marton Dunai

Hungary will not relax rules for international universities despite pressure from the European Union and offers from Germany to mediate in a row over a college founded by US billionaire George Soros, the government said yesterday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a nationalist who has clashed with the EU, has been accused of restricting academic freedom with his new higher education rules, which the Central European University (CEU) said forced it out of the country.

"There is no change in our core view," government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said. "We will not change the laws and regulations that govern higher education in Hungary. We still operate on that basis."

Central European University, set up by Mr Soros, a Hungarian-born liberal philanthropist, will move part of its operations to Austria from September because of rules forbidding it to issue US degrees.

The dispute, often seen as a proxy for disagreements between Mr Soros and Mr Orban on migration, is one of the main issues that caused the European Peoples' Party to suspend Mr Orban's Fidesz party before European elections.

The government of the German state of Bavaria and the Technical University of Munich stepped in to help.

Offering three new professorships and new courses to augment CEU's teaching, they said they would open a way for CEU to issue international degrees.

A Hungarian government official told an opposition member of the Budapest parliament that Hungary considered Bavarian participation in the Hungarian higher education sector "a step that builds trust".

Irish Independent

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