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New conflicts around tuition fees

December 11th, 2012

A pro-government daily examines the arguments for and against the cutback on state funded higher education and fears that “shaken trust” may only be restored in the long run.

The government intends to cut back state funded higher education by further reducing the number of full scholarships, from about thirty thousand in 2012-2013 to ten thousand in 2013-14, offering partial (50 per cent) scholarships and low interest student loans instead. Partial packages have proven rather unpopular so far – less than 2,000 students opted for them in 2012. The government, however, claims that by offering more partial scholarships, it will make higher education available for more young Hungarians in 2013. The Hungarian Conference of Provosts as well as student organizations protested against the measures which have also drawn criticism from centrist and left-wing analysts. (See BudaPost December 7.)

In her Magyar Nemzet editorial entitled “Shaken trust”, Adrienn Csókás argues that the government aims at improving the labour market position of graduates by cutting back on funding, as under the new system students will have more incentives to finish their studies in time and choose subjects that offer better prospects. However – she notes –, eighty per cent of students will have to pay for higher education and it is questionable whether under the present economic circumstances such incentives will have the intended effect. Families opting for student loans will only postpone financial burdens and it is not surprising that students do not want to get indebted once they are uncertain if and when they find employment and employers who are ready to foot the bill. Csókás also finds protest by the provosts understandable, as universities rely on per capita grants in their finances and with an 8bn cutback already introduced, and a further 20bn reduction coming in 2013, some of them may face collapse. Yet, even „the furious” must admit that courses where full scholarships have already been almost completely eliminated – such as economics and law – are still popular and there were far more applicants in than places in 2012. Perhaps „the now shaken trust” will return in the long term – she concludes – when the first results of these „drastic and sudden reforms” materialize and employers start taking over the burden of the student loans.

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