The majority of Hungarians support the government’s legislation which would force foreign universities, such as the George Soros-founded Central European University (CEU), to adhere to new regulations.According to MTI, a poll conducted by think tank the Századvég Foundation found 70 per cent of Hungarians support amendments to the higher education act which would see foreign universities issuing degrees in Hungary be obliged to observe Hungarian regulations.
Over 1,000 adults were surveyed by telephone between Friday and Tuesday last week. Of those polled, 86 per cent of respondents were aware of the legislation and related protests. The survey also showed 72 per cent of people do not consider it necessary to hold a referendum on the changes that affect CEU and other foreign universities operating in Hungary.
MPs in the 199-seat unicameral parliament, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s conservative Fidesz party, voted 123 in favour and 38 against the legislation. The bill was then signed into law by President János Áder on Monday.
The new amendments will ban institutions from outside the European Union from awarding degree certificates without an agreement between national governments. Foreign universities will also be required to have a campus and faculties in their home country — conditions not currently met by the American CEU.
The university, founded by progressive open borders financier and Hungarian native George Soros, alleges Orbán’s government is deliberating targeting CEU.
The government maintains the law ensures transparency, prevents foreign universities from having an unfair advantage over Hungarian universities, and does not target CEU specifically. Government officials have said that CEU is capable of fulfilling its conditions within the timeframe and that the institution does not face immediate closure.
The law was written following a review of 28 foreign-run universities in the country; 27 were found to have problems with operational licences, course accreditation, and state cooperation. Only one university, the liberal, American McDaniel College, was cleared.
János Lázár, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office, has called reactions to the domestic law by international press and foreign governments as “hysterical, political hype”.
Mr. Lázár also said that Soros-backed lobbyists are agitating against the Fidesz-led government, putting pressure on the governments in Brussels, Washington, D.C., and Berlin.
“There is ongoing lobbying against Hungary”, the minister said, adding the “Soros network will most probably continue to apply pressure” to interfere in Hungary’s “right of sovereignty [to] regulate the foundation and operation of universities”.
The U.S. State Department has expressed concerns over the legislation, and the executive branch of the EU has launched an investigation.
On Sunday, a protest in Budapest saw a reported 70,000 people protest in support of Soros’s university.
Media attention on Hungary’s education law has been given intense focus by establishment and left wing newspapers such as The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Financial Times.