On October 25, 2018 the Board of Trustees of Central European University (CEU) announced that it will move most of its teaching to Vienna if the government of Hungary fails to remove the legal obstacles to its academic freedom.
Michael Ignatieff, the President of CEU, announced that the University would stop admitting students in Budapest after failing to resolve a dispute with the government over a new law that appeared to require CEU to open a branch in the United States. CEU’s incoming students for master's and doctoral programs will study at a new campus in Vienna beginning in the 2019-20 academic year.
This decision comes in the face of the Hungarian government's crackdown on academic freedom and autonomy, including a government ban on gender studies programs, the forced suspension of research related to migration and diaspora studies, and harsh punitive tax measures.
Ignatieff stated that CEU will maintain some sort of presence in Budapest; however, the bulk of its teaching will be moved to a satellite campus it has been preparing in the Austrian capital.
“For 18 months, we have defended our right to remain as a U.S. degree-granting institution in Budapest, but we are unable to secure the guarantees we need from the Hungarian Government to preserve our academic freedom,” Ignatieff said at a news conference. “This is our home.”
Ignatieff added that CEU hopes to reach a last-minute deal that would allow it to stay in Budapest. “If the government thinks they can get rid of CEU," he said, "they’ve got another think coming.”
Central European University is accredited in Hungary and the United States, and it is acknowledged as one of the leading institutions in the region, with a faculty made up of top scholars and leading politicians from around the world.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide deplores and condemns the Hungarian government's attempts 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 CEU. We believe that the actions of the Hungarian government are a flagrant and unjust violation of the freedom, autonomy, security, and safety of a prominent European university and its more than 2,200 faculty members, students, and academic 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 international conventions and treaties to which Hungary has long been a signatory.
We stand in solidarity with the students and faculty of the Central European University.