Crowds march to defend Soros funded university in Budapest (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
On Sunday, scores of students and CEU supporters marched from Budapest’s Corvinus University to Central European University buildings on Nador Street.
Pictures posted by people at the scene show crowds walking through Budapest, some carrying European Union flags and messages of solidarity for the university.
Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party is backing a new higher education act which, according to a draft of the document, would see institutions funded through foreign investment required to also host students at a home nation campus.
The act also states that certain universities could be blocked from issuing foreign diplomas to Hungarian residents.
The Central European University (CEU), which was founded by US billionaire investor George Soros in 1991, say the bill specifically targets their operating structure and “is therefore discriminatory”.
“We came as I believe Fidesz party is building an autocracy and we want to demonstrate in support of free education as if it is CEU now, it could be Corvinus next,” Milan Holper, a student at Corvinas University, told Reuters.
CEU does not have a US campus and has called on the Hungarian government to scrap the legislation.
“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 neighbours, its EU partners and with the United States,” CEU president Michael Ignatieff said last week.
In January, the vice chairman of the ruling Fidesz party said that all nongovernmental organizations backed by billionaire Soros – who was born in Budapest – should be “swept out” of Hungary. Szilard Nemeth claimed at the time that Soros organizations are “pushing global big capital and related political correctness into Hungary.”
The US Department of State said it is “concerned” about the new legislation under consideration in parliament.
“CEU is a premier academic institution accredited in the United States and Hungary, with staff and students from over 100 countries. We urge the Government of Hungary to avoid taking any legislative action that would compromise CEU’s operations or independence,” the statement read.
A Change.org petition supporting CEU has also received more than 30,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, professors from Universities of Cambridge and Oxford have also written a letter to Hungary’s Minister of Human Capacities to express their “deep concern” at the potential legal changes.