Announcing the relocation of its US-accredited degree programmes to Vienna from September 2019, the Central European University called the “arbitrary eviction of a reputable university” a “flagrant violation of academic freedom” and “a dark day for Europe and a dark day for Hungary.” The university further regretted that the Hungarian government had “refused to listen to the representations they received from members of the US Congress, the Office of the Governor of the State of New York, the Venice Commission, members of the European Parliament, leaders of universities around the world, over two dozen Nobel Laureates, but above all, the thousands of Hungarians from all walks of life who demonstrated peacefully and called for ‘free universities in a free country’”. It said that CEU is registered in Austria to issue US-accredited degrees and will welcome all incoming students to its Vienna location in September 2019, adding that enrolled students will complete their studies in Budapest.
Speaking at a press conference, Michael Ignatieff, CEU’s president and rector, said the university fulfilled all of its legal obligations according the State of New York, but the Hungarian government had refused to accept this stance. He said CEU had sought to fulfil its obligations under the amended higher education act, but for the sake of the students, it could not wait any longer. The rector said he believed the government had no intention of resolving CEU’s situation.
CEU deputy rector Zsolt Enyedi said CEU had lost hope of extending its operating permit. Deputy rector Éva Fodor said the most important thing for CEU over the coming period would be ensuring that the quality of teaching and learning at the university does not decline. She said CEU also had to focus on preserving its unity, stressing that it would remain a single institution despite the fact that it would operate at multiple venues.
In a press statement released by the US State Department, a spokesperson said the US government was “disappointed” that the Hungarian government and CEU had not concluded an agreement that would allow the university to continue its US-accredited programmes in Hungary. “Since the Hungarian government amended its law on higher education in April 2017, we have worked diligently with both parties to find a solution that would allow CEU to preserve these programs in Hungary,” Heather Nauert said in the statement. “The United States values the role that CEU and other American educational institutions play in building connections between the Hungarian and American people and strengthening the transatlantic bond. The departure of these U.S.-accredited programs from Hungary will be a loss for the CEU community, for the United States, and for Hungary,” she added.
CEU is accredited in the US and Hungary with 1,200 master’s and doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, business, law, cognitive and network science. The university employs 770 staff and faculty. It contributed 25 million euros (8 billion forints) to the Hungarian economy each year in taxes, pension and health contributions, and payments to suppliers, the university said.