Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

University led by Ignatieff forced to relocate out of Hungary

University led by Ignatieff forced to relocate out of Hungary

The Central European University (CEU), a private, graduate-level institution founded by Hungarian billionaire George Soros, on Monday said it has been "forced" out of Hungary and will enrol new students at its Vienna campus.

The university, which serves about 1,400 worldwide students, has made a decision to move its USA -accredited degree programs from Hungary to neighbouring Austria next September after meeting with ongoing resistance from the Orban regime, said Ignatieff, the school's president and rector since 2016.

"Today's announcement that the Central European University (CEU) will be forced to relocate after Hungary's refusal to allow it to continue operations in Budapest is a awful loss". Since the CEU does not provide educational services in the U.S., it has come under threat of closure in Hungary.

The university said it would leave Budapest if it had not secured guarantees of academic freedom by December 1.

A 22-year-old CEU student from Russia, who gave his name as Vladimir, said the university's fate reminded him of how the Russian government had treated a similar institution in Saint Petersburg.

For almost three decades CEU has been a gateway to the West for thousands of students from ex-communist eastern Europe, offering USA -accredited degree programmes in an academic climate that celebrates free thought.

The EU's executive commission past year referred Hungary to court in the CEU case, saying that amendments Hungary made to its higher education law - some of which clearly targeted CEU - were counter to academic freedom and other EU rights.


CEU's legal status has been in limbo for more than a year since changes to a higher education law that critics of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government say deliberately targeted CEU.

The university will retain accreditation and aims to continue providing opportunities for teaching and research in Budapest "as long as it's possible", the statement said.

"CEU has been forced out", said CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff.

"We, CEU and Fidesz, peacefully coexisted side by side in the past years", Lazar said.

The move is permanent, Ignatieff noted, and CEU, founded by investor George Soros, will not be a "university in exile".

Mr. Ignatieff, former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and a prominent writer and academic, said his task now is to lead the institution to "safety".

In April, Orban won a third consecutive term — and fourth overall — with an electoral program based on opposing migration.

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