“CEU has been forced out,” said CEU president and rector Michael Ignatieff, and the institution “couldn’t wait any longer” to start its student recruitment for 2019.
“A European institution has been ousted from the EU”
In October, CEU warned it could be forced to move to Vienna, if it had not reached an agreement with the Hungarian government on Lex CEU (the moniker given to prime minister Orban’s education reforms, widely seen as targeting CEU directly) before December 1.
“This is unprecedented. A US institution has been driven out of a country that is a NATO ally. A European institution has been ousted from a member state of the EU,” Ignatieff said.
According to the university, the Hungarian government has “made it clear” it will not sign an agreement it negotiated in 2017 with the State of New York, which would ensure CEU’s operations in Budapest for the long term.
The move is permanent, Ignatieff noted, and CEU, founded by investor George Soros, will not be a “university in exile”.
The European Court of Justice has not held a hearing, despite the Lex CEU law violating European laws, Ignatieff added, on a “dark day for academic freedom”.
“It’s not just a problem for my university, it’s a problem for every university in [Hungary],” he emphasised.
The university has been “repeatedly assured” by Sebastian Kurz’s populist government in Austria that it was unequivocally welcome to the Austrian capital.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Leon Botstein, said Vienna and the Austrian federal government had welcomed CEU “with open arms” as part of their commitment to academic freedom and research.
“Despite our consternation at being forced to leave Budapest, we are excited to offer our students the opportunity to study in another great central European city,” he said.
Returning students will finish their studies in Budapest, while new enrolments on CEU’s US-accredited degree programs will begin their studies in Vienna in September 2019.
I am saddened at this state of affairs for the university I helped build. I managed the construction of the main campus and the Kerepesi dormitory.