The Semmelweis University (Illustration) – Photo:

Hanko: Brussels attacking sovereignty of Hungarian universities

The European Union is holding back the development of Hungary's universities, trapping students and lecturers in a political game, Balazs Hanko, the state secretary for higher education, said in an interview published on Friday, declaring that Hungary would "fight back".

In the interview to Magyar Nemzet, the state secretary for innovation and higher education of the culture and innovation ministry, said the government’s policy to change how universities operate was already bearing fruit and several universities had advanced apace in various international rankings.

Hanko slammed a 2023 European University Association report suggesting that Hungarian universities had no autonomy, saying that the report had focused on state-run universities, even though most institutions were by now not run by the state. He accused the association of making misleading assertions and smearing “our new structure”.

Meanwhile, he accused the EU of making “utterly unreasonable demands” by blocking the Erasmus+ programme and attempting to deprive Hungarian students, teachers and researchers of their international activities and contacts.

The government’s 10 billion forint (EUR 25.4m) Pannonia programme, however, ensures that 8,000 Hungarian and foreign students studying in Hungary gain experiences abroad, while the HU-rizont scheme helps Hungarian researchers pursue their goals in an international environment, he noted.

Whereas 5 years ago 7 Hungarian universities were placed in the top 5 percent in the global rankings, today this has grown to 12, he said. Also, university funding has increased 2.5 times, with every second forint linked to performance, he added.

Regarding vocational training, Hanko said that the new system from 2020 had “got off to an fantastic start”, and was recognised in international competitions and rankings. He said ties between vocational training and higher education were strengthening, with the number of applicants from vocational training to higher education increasing by 74 percent, while 40 vocational training centres have entered into partnerships with universities.

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