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Hungarian gov’t to spend an estimated €180m on language courses abroad

An estimated €180 million in funding will be provided by the Hungarian government to support some 90,000 of the country’s students when they travel to the UK, Ireland, Malta, Germany, Austria, France and China this summer to take part in two-week language courses.

Up to 140,000 Hungarian students may study abroad at language schools this summer as part of the new scheme. Photo: Pexels/Immortal Shots

The program will have a hugely positive impact on the UK’s ELT sector

Each student will be awarded €2,000, meaning the government will provide around €180m in funding. However, the total funding could exceed that figure significantly as exact numbers are still unknown and as many as 140,000 students are eligible for the scheme.

“We very much hope… when they return home their language learning appetite will increase”

The  ‘Foreign Language Learning Scholarship Programme for Hungarian Secondary School Students in Grade 9 and 11′ initiative is being run by non-profit organisation the Tempus Public Foundation on behalf of the government.

Launched in 2019, the 2020 program will see students travel abroad as part of the program. 

The only prerequisite for funding is that the students are in years 9 or 11 and that they are studying the relevant language at secondary school. They are able to travel individually or in organised groups and will arrive between June 13, and August 31 of this year.

Tímea Tiboldi, head of Unit at the Tempus Public Foundation’s Language Learning Unit told The PIE News that the initiative has been set up to help motivate students who are studying languages. 

“Once [the students] have the experience of studying the specific language in an authentic environment it will hopefully stimulate their motivation to learn that language,” she said. 

“They will be able to make friendships which last for a life-time. We very much hope that they will socialise with their peers… [and] when they return home their language learning appetite will increase so that they will be more efficient in learning foreign languages.”

An online survey by TPF between September and October 2019 revealed a notable appetite among students for the initiative. 

Data showed that 89,924 students indicated their intention to participate in the program based on the responses of 531 out of 738 Hungarian public education institutions that responded to the survey.

It revealed that 90% of those students would travel in groups and that 80% of all language learners indicated their intention to travel to English speaking countries. 

Graph: Tempus Public Foundation

Institutions and students were advised not to have strong preferences towards specific target countries before the course offerings of the language schools are made public. This is because demand will have to be adjusted to the capacity of the language schools. 

As a result, 37,485 students did not specify where they wanted to travel to.

Out of the students that did specify 21,770 hoped to travel to the UK, 5,086 specified Ireland, 8308 specified Malta and 1547 specified France. 5,771 students wanted to go to Germany and 1,261 chose Austria. 


Graph: Tempus Public Foundation

ELT schools have also expressed their enthusiasm for the program, with the UK set to gain the most from this influx of international students.

Short Courses director at CATS Colleges, Carl Roberton, oversees short courses for Stafford House London which is set to accept Hungarian students this year.

He explained that at first, he didn’t realise the scale of the initiative. 

“The numbers that have been bandied about, who knows if they are correct or not, are potentially 50,000 students coming to the UK this summer. That is massive,” he told The PIE.

“It’s probably more students than the whole English language business in the UK can manage and maintain a good nationality mix”

However, Roberton also highlighted one of the challenges of such a large number of students from one nationality.

“It’s probably more students than the whole English language business in the UK can manage and maintain a good nationality mix for those students,” he suggested.

“I think Stafford House has had three Hungarian students in the last three years, and suddenly it seems we’re going to have over six or seven hundred this year.”

The exact number of students arriving at language schools will soon become clearer, as applications to ELT schools are due by March and April. 

Groups of students have a 30-day window to apply between February and March, while individuals can apply between February and April. 

Jodie Gray, interim chief executive of English UK said the association and its member centres are feeling “very optimistic” about the program.

“This has the potential to be the largest European scholarship program for many years,” Gray explained.

“It presents an opportunity for British Council accredited teaching centres to welcome tens of thousands of Hungarian young people, helping them to develop their English language skills and experience what the UK has to offer and be inspired,”  she added.

“This has the potential to be the largest European scholarship program for many years”

Gray explained that the program will have a hugely positive impact on the UK’s ELT sector and its international community of students.

“We’re supporting the Tempus Public Foundation, who are managing the program, in order to ensure that every Hungarian student has the best possible time in the UK.”

Tempus Public Foundation has worked with the British Council to find ELT schools partners in the UK. Roy Cross, principal consultant at the British Council, told The PIE that the British Council welcomes the “ambitious” Hungarian government program.

“[It] has the potential to transform how the next generation of young Hungarians relates to and engages with the United Kingdom,” Cross added.

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