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The Democratic Coalition (DK), Jobbik, Momentum and LMP opposition parties have issued a statement objecting to the government policy of allowing politicians to sit on the boards of trustees of universities run by foundations. The statement was made after a press report suggesting that universities run by foundations will not receive fresh funding as part of the EU’s Erasmus programme — under which students from Hungary can study abroad — and Horizon Europe research and innovation schemes.
DK is introducing a bill to prohibit state leaders and incumbent lawmakers from sitting on boards of trustees of universities managed by foundations, the party’s deputy group leader, Gergely Arató, told an online press briefing on Monday. He added that the European Commission had already declared as “unacceptable” the government putting public universities “in the hands of trustees led by politicians”.
Jobbik deputy group leader Koloman Brenner said students and lecturers should not be punished for the government’s policy of putting certain universities into the hands of foundations. He called on the government to start negotiations with foundation-run institutions — especially the large scientific universities — on returning them to the state as a matter of urgency.
Momentum MEP Katalin Cseh said in a statement that her party had turned to the Commission asking it not to exclude Hungarian students from the Erasmus programme owing to “the corruption of [PM Viktor] Orbán and his people”. LMP said in a statement that the ruling Fidesz party had not consulted anyone before changing the Hungarian university system. Reforming Hungary’s higher education sector, it added, was “a national matter”, and the country’s future prosperity was at stake. LMP wants strict rules on conflict of interest to be established, it said.
The Socialist Party said in a statement that it had been predictable that the foundational model for universities would “cause serious disadvantages” for the higher education sector, institutions and students. The party said tens of thousands of Hungarian students would be deprived of the opportunity to establish international relationships and acquire new knowledge, which they said would lead to Hungary falling further behind. The party said it will write a letter to János Csák, the minister responsible for higher education, asking him to initiate talks with the EC to prevent Hungary from missing out on the opportunities and funds offered by the Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe schemes.