AP NEWS

Hungary: Soros-founded school plans to stay in Budapest

June 26, 2018
1 of 2
FILE - In this Sunday, April 9, 2017, file photo, a demonstrator chants slogans during a protest against the amendment of the higher education law that could force a Budapest university founded by billionaire American philanthropist George Soros to close in front of the Parliament building in Budapest. The Budapest-based Central European University, founded by billionaire George Soros, says the school will begin recruiting students for the 2019-2020 academic year and plans to stay in Budapest. (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP)

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Budapest-based Central European University, founded by billionaire George Soros and targeted by Hungary’s populist prime minister, said Tuesday that the school will begin recruiting students for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The announcement from the board of trustees seemed to confirm the university’s commitment to staying in Budapest as it awaits a decision by the Hungarian government regarding its compliance with new rules for higher education institutions.

CEU president and rector Michael Ignatieff said it was a “clear statement” by the school’s board on defending academic freedom in Hungary.

The new regulations passed last year are seen directly targeting the university because of its ties to Soros, an ideological foe of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The determinedly anti-migrant Orban blames the Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist for promoting mass migration into Europe, a charge he denies.

While the government initially presented the issues with the institution as purely educational, government officials later acknowledged that the main considerations around CEU were political.

Among other things, the law stipulates that foreign-based universities operating in Hungary must also have a campus in their home countries and an agreement is needed between those countries and Hungary.

Hungary’s government has until the end of the year to decide whether CEU can stay.

Last year, CEU, which is accredited in New York state, reached a deal with Bard College to carry out educational activities there, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said it was ready to sign the accord with Hungary.

“The Hungarian government has repeatedly said that once we fulfill the conditions of the new law, we will be fairly treated and that CEU will be able to operate in Hungary,” said Leon Botstein, chairman of the CEU board. “Now is the time for Hungary to follow through on these commitments.”

CEU will also open a new campus in Vienna next year.