A university in Budapest founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros faces closure if the Hungarian prime minister pushes through a new law which prevents colleges being funded from outside the country.
The Central European University (CEU) said Hungary’s new legislation on higher education ‘would make it impossible to continue its operations’ in Budapest, where it was set up 25 years ago.
Ironically Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a Soros Foundation scholarship to Pembroke College in Oxford in 1989.
But he has been increasingly critical of Soros, accusing him of wanting to influence Hungarian politics and supporting mass migration into Europe.
The populist Orban is leading a crackdown on migrants and the governing Fidesz party says it wants new rules on non-governmental organisations that receive international funding, such as the corruption watchdog Transparency International and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.
But the rules would also hit universities like the CEU, which has 1,800 students, most of them Hungarian.
The university’s Rector, Michael Ignatieff, said: ‘Any legislative change that would force CEU to cease operation in Budapest would damage Hungarian academic life and negatively impact the government of Hungary’s relations with its neighbors, its EU partners and with the United States.
‘I call on the government to enter into negotiations with us to find a satisfactory way forward that allows CEU to continue in Budapest and to maintain the academic freedoms essential to its operation.’
The university said amendments to the draft bill submitted to parliament by education minister Zoltan Balog were specifically designed to hit the school.
They include eliminating a waiver which allows academic staff from non-EU countries to be employed at the university without a work permit and forcing the institution to change its name.
‘We will defend our achievements vigorously against anyone who seeks to defame our work in the eyes of the Hungarian people,’ said Ignatieff.