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EU to suspend Erasmus programmes for Hungarian foundation-run universities

January 12th, 2023

A pro-government columnist suspects political reasons behind the move by the European Commission, while a left-wing commentator accuses the government of being responsible for closing Europe’s doors to thousands of Hungarian students.

Over 30 higher education and cultural institutions in Hungary, including 21 universities, will probably be cut off from Erasmus funding and Horizon Europe programmes, based on concerns over the new system of ‘public foundations’ set up by the government to run those institutions, the Commission announced on Monday. (For the background, see BudaPost, March 3, 2021). Erasmus is a program financing ‘guest studies’ abroad, while Horizon is a research and cultural exchange scheme. On RTL television, a Commission spokesman denied a statement by Tibor Navracsics, the cabinet minister in charge of negotiations with the European Commission over financial transfers to Hungary, who said the European Commission never objected to the presence of active government politicians on the boards of the foundation-run universities. The spokesman said misgivings had been expressed over incompatibility rules.

In Magyar Nemzet, Ottó Gajdics suggests that the Commission is out to defend what he calls the traditional left-wing hegemony in higher education. He finds it unreasonable to maintain that the presence of cabinet ministers, including Justice Minister Judit Varga on the board of the Miskolc University foundation, or of Finance Minister Mihály Varga in the council running Óbuda University, would jeopardise the use of EU Erasmus funds – all the more so since those funds are used directly by students studying abroad. He finds it ‘disgusting to punish students for the alleged failure of the authorities to tackle the risk of corruption’.

On Mérce, Vanessza Juhász quotes statistics whereby over 22 thousand Hungarians spent at least a few months studying or researching in other EU countries in 2020, which cost the EU budget 40 million Euros. If that financing is scrapped for 21 universities, she writes quoting a law professor, thousands of Hungarian students will suddenly find themselves back in the pre-regime-change era. She accuses the government of gradually isolating Hungary internationally, and asks whether the authorities will keep the system of foundation-run universities in place and thus scupper the plans of students with modest material resources to study abroad – or will give in to EU pressure.


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