August 3rd, 2018
The Central European University in Budapest has been the subject of an intense battle in Hungary. CreditDaniel Vegel/Central European University
The Central European University (CEU) has been at cross hairs with the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán since last year, when Hungary passed a law that imposes stringent conditions to license foreign universities.
The new law requires CEU to open a branch in its “home state” of New York alongside its campus in Budapest. It also requires CEU to secure a bilateral agreement of support from the U.S. government.
The law was met with criticism from universities around the world, the United States and the executive arm of the European Union. Mass protests filled the streets of Budapest, the Hungarian capital. Critics said the law was aimed at CEU and specifically at its founder, the Hungarian-born George Soros who has spent millions backing organizations that promote liberal democracy and open borders in Europe.
A 2017 protest rally to support Central European University as Viktor Orbán visited Tbilisi, Georgia. Photograph Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA
CEU prides itself on the diversity of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures examining such subjects as emerging democracies, transitional economies, media freedom, nationalism, human rights, and the rule of law. The University is often seen as a bastion of liberalism, where thousands of students from across central Europe and the former Soviet Union have a received education in English over the past two decades.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a Fidesz party rally in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, on April 6, 2018. LASZLO BALOGH/GETTY IMAGES
Mr. George Soros. Source: CEU website
Mr. Orbán, who himself was among the recipients of scholarships from foundations sponsored by the financier George Soros during the transition to democracy, now holds a very strong anti-immigration position and has accused Mr. Soros “of plotting to destabilize the continent by allowing millions of migrants to settle in Europe.” Source: The New York Times.
Mr. Orbán has championed the concept of “illiberal democracy” as part of his political platform. After winning re-election, declared: “The age of liberal democracy is over.”
In early May, the Open Society Foundations (OSF) – an international grant-making network also founded by Mr. Soros – announced it would close the Budapest office from which it has disbursed more than €400-million ($605-million) for democratic and civil initiatives over 34 years. Source: The Globe and Mail
Let us take a look at the origins of CEU and an overview of its programs:
History of CEU and its founder, George Soros
According to the information provided by the University’s website, “in 1989, a group of visionary intellectuals—most of them prominent members of the anti-totalitarian democratic opposition—conceptualized an international university that would help facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Among them was George Soros, the Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist, who founded Central European University two years later.” The generous endowment given to CEU by Mr. Soros today stands at 500 million euros, or about $610 million making it one of the most successful and revered centers for social sciences in Hungary and eastern Europe.
The CEU website continues, “Soros championed the project because he understood that open societies can flourish only with people in positions of responsibility who are educated to promote them. His vision was to recruit professors and students from around the world to build a unique institution, one that would train future generations of scholars, professionals, politicians, and civil society leaders to contribute to building open and democratic societies that respect human rights and adhere to the rule of law.”
In 1991, starting with a little over than 100 students from 20 countries, CEI held its first classes in Prague. In 1993, the University relocated to Budapest.
In the United States, CEU is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. In Hungary, CEU is officially recognized as a privately maintained and operated university. The university was accredited by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee in 2004.
CEU is an active member of the European University Association and of the Council of Graduate Schools in the US.
CEU Schools and Departments
Central European University is a graduate-level university offering a wide range of degree programs at the Master’s and Doctoral levels. It has 370 faculty and approximately 1,400 students from more than 130 countries.
For a list of degree programs offered at CEU that are accredited by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee and registered by the Educational Authority, click here.
CEU’s Worldwide Rankings
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015 placed CEU among the world’s top 100 universities in the social sciences category.
According to the 2015 QS World University Rankings, the university is placed 29th worldwide in the field of politics and international studies, among the top 51-100 worldwide in philosophy, and among the top 51-100 worldwide for sociology.
The Economics department of the university has recently ranked eighth in Europe by the ERC (European Research Council), based on research excellence.
On the 2012 QS TOPMBA survey, the CEU Business School is ranked thirteenth as best MBA program in Europe.
And, according to a study published by German newspaper Die Zeit, the CEU Department of Political Science is among the top 5 political science departments in Europe.
English as the Medium of Instruction
The language of instruction for all master’s, doctoral and non-degree programs offered by Central European University is English. Candidates whose first language is not English must demonstrate proficiency in English by submitting standardized English language test scores.
Latest News on CEU’s Status
On April 9, 2018, CEU announced that it had signed an agreement with the City of Vienna to open a new satellite campus there.
CEU has since set up a U.S. site at Bard College in New York State. A Hungarian delegation inspected the New York campus in March 2018.
CEU is still waiting for its agreement with New York to be signed by the Hungarian government, prolonging a period of uncertainty over the Budapest operation.
If CEU is pushed out of Budapest, the university could move to neighboring Austria and make Vienna its new home.
As of the posting of this blog, CEU students and staff are unsure of what the future holds. The university’s fate remains up in the air.
Links to additional sources:
The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.