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British Academy disquiet over Hungarian Government interventions in academia

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The British Academy is concerned about the Hungarian Government’s continuing interventions in academia including to not fund gender studies, one of a number of recent instances restricting academic activities, urging it to ‘reconsider its policies’ and ‘protect academic autonomy’.

Gergely Gulyás, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff, announced earlier this month that as of September 2019 the government will not finance or accredit gender studies courses.

“The state does not wish to finance [these] educational activities,” he said, arguing that the low number of students enrolled in these courses “may be a powerful argument for terminating them”.

The move will affect two universities: Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Hungary’s major university, and Central European University (CEU), the international graduate institution based in Budapest.

CEU has also been forced to announce the immediate suspension of its education for registered refugees and asylum seekers – also known as the Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) – after Hungarian legislation was implemented to force educators to pay a 25% tax on immigration-related programmes. 

The legislation has similarly forced the CEU to suspend the administration of its European Union-funded Marie Curie Research Grant on migration policy in Central and Southern Europe.

In response to these actions, Professor Sir David Cannadine, the Historian and President of the British Academy, said:

“The British Academy is concerned about the Hungarian Government and Parliament’s interventions in academic matters. 

“The current situation with the unilateral announcement of the closure of gender studies is highly disturbing, as is the Central European University’s suspension of its education training and research related to refugees, asylum seekers and migration due to the coming into force of new legislation.”

“The British Academy supports the statement on the inappropriate political infringement on academic curricula in Hungary, issued by the All European Academies (ALLEA) on 21 August 2018. We call on the Hungarian Government to reconsider its policies in this regard; to open consultations and dialogue with academics and institutions in Hungary, particularly those directly affected; and, to protect academic autonomy and recognise its value in maintaining Hungary’s research capabilities nationally and internationally.”

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