The Semmelweis University (Illustration) – Photo:

Opposition pledges to put universities under state control in 2022

Parliament votes to transfer several universities from state to foundations

Parliament approved on Tuesday the transfer several universities from the state to private foundations, paving the way for 70 percent of students to pursue their studies under the new model from this autumn. The cardinal law submitted by Minister of Innovation and Technology Laszlo Palkovics received 134 votes in support and 59 votes against.

In line with the decision, the universities of Szeged, Dunaujvaros, Pecs, Nyiregyhaza and Debrecen, the Hungarian Dance Academy, the newly formed Tokaj-Hegyalja University, the Budapesti University of Economics, the University of Physical Education, Semmelweis University and Rudolf Kalman University of Obuda will be run by fundations. Five additional fondations have been set up for additional purposes, and the Eszterhazy Karoly University of Eger will be transferred to the Catholic church.

The law on public interest asset management foundations lists a total of 32 foundations, of which 21 will be in charge of running higher education institutions.

Tamas Schanda, a state secretary at the ITM, said in the general debate of the bill that a strategy already drafted in 2016 was being implemented. He said that a more independent and autonomous form of organisation would help universities integrate into the economy better, and, he added, their financial autonomy would be guaranteed.

Opposition pledges to put universities under state control in 2022

The opposition parties have pledged that once in power after the 2022 elections, they would put Hungary’s universities under state control again.

In a press conference held in front of the Parliament building on Tuesday, Parbeszed, Jobbik, the Socialists, the Democratic Coalition (DK), LMP and Momentum unanimously declared that the “stolen assets” would be returned to the nation.

Earlier today, parliament approved the transfer of several universities from the state to private foundations. The universities transferred represent 70 percent of Hungary’s students.

Sandor Burany, deputy group leader of Parbeszed, said that ruling Fidesz “seems to be fearing failure” in next year’s elections and tries to gain control over as much public assets as possible.

Jobbik deputy leader Gyorgy Szilagyi accused pro-government lawmakers of squandering public assets. He warned the board members of the foundations in question to take due care of the properties put under their control as “those causing damage to the nation and stealing our money” would be prosecuted after 2022.

Socialist lawmaker Laszlo Szakacs said that while the country is focussing on fighting the pandemic, Viktor Orban’s government transfers about one thousand billion forints worth of public assets to foundations led by “Fidesz soldiers”. He noted that the foundations’ board members could not be replaced or recalled.

DK deputy group leader Gergely Arato said universities would be privatised with a view to giving the private foundations access to the huge EU funds earmarked for developing higher education, and then enabling them to “distribute the money among cronies”.

LMP group leader Laszlo Lorant Keresztes said the law would put the universities’ assets under political control. He noted that Europe’s best universities are generally controlled by the state. He added that the opposition parties, once in power, would restore the autonomy of universities.

Momentum board member Miklos Hajnal said “Orban is preparing for a defeat but he is a bad loser because he would like to finance his defeat from taxpayer money.” He accused the prime minister of seeking to build “an alternative state” and retain control over higher education, “landed property, castles and stocks”, he said.

LMP: A ‘dark day’ in post-1990 Hungarian politics

The opposition LMP party has branded Tuesday — the day the government is asking lawmakers to approve a bill seeking to transfer various state assets to private foundations — as a “dark day” in post-1989/90 Hungarian politics.

Laszlo Keresztes, LMP’s group leader, noted MPs are scheduled to vote to “outsource” about 1,000 billion forints (EUR 2.75bn) in public assets and to bring “almost all” of Hungarian higher education under political control via foundations that, he said the ruling Fidesz party planned to control.

The LMP politician also slammed a move to import “a Chinese Communist Party university” to Hungary, putting Hungary even further into China’s debt.

“Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is … proud to make decisions contrary to Hungarian national interests,” he added.

Some of Europe’s best universities are state-maintained, Keresztes said, adding that placing Hungarian institutions under private foundations would harm their autonomy.

Opposition parties, he said, agreed on restoring universities and outsourced public property restored to the state should they win the 2022 general election.

Leave a Reply