CEU “Forced Out” of Hungary—a “Blow to Academic Freedom”

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

Budapest's Central European University (CEU), which has fought for 20 months to secure its continued presence in the Hungarian capital, is being pushed out of the country in an “arbitrary eviction” that violates academic freedom. CEU confirmed plans to open a new campus in Austria.

CEU’s legal status has been in limbo for more than a year since changes were made to a higher education law, done, as critics of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government say, to deliberately target CEU. This decision came in the face of Orban’s crackdown on academic freedom and autonomy, including a ban on gender studies programs, the suspension of research related to migration and diaspora studies, and harsh punitive tax measures.

On December 3, 2018, Michael Ignatieff, the president of CEU, called the move unprecedented, saying it was the first time a US institution had been driven out by a NATO ally. “We fought a battle of principle to defend academic freedom. We thought democracy was secure in Europe and now we’re looking at democratic backsliding of a serious kind in Hungary,” Ignatieff said at a news conference. “The challenge for us is to maintain our academic quality while we recover from this political attack. We’re part of a bigger story, which is the process of slow consolidation of single-party rule in this country, and that should worry us.”

Central European University is accredited in Hungary and the United States. It is acknowledged as one of the leading institutions in the region, with a faculty made up of leading scholars and politicians from around the world.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide deplores and condemns the outrageous and unforgivable act of the Hungarian government to drive out the country's leading university. We join other academic, intellectual, and political leaders in Europe, the US, and other regions who object to this assault on the CEU. We believe that the eviction of this reputable university is a flagrant and unjust violation of its freedom, autonomy, security, and safety, as well as that of its more than 2,200 faculty members, students, and staff.

We call upon all European governments, the US Department of State, international organizations, university presidents, academic and professional associations, student groups, and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to protest and condemn the Hungarian government’s actions toward CEU. We must create a stable legal environment in which independent thought and inquiry can flourish.

ESW urges the officials of the Hungarian government to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of autonomy of higher education as specified in the intern