Soros-founded university, an island of liberal thought, can stay open, says Hungary

Opponents of a law that could close Central European University call the measure a way for Hungary's ruling party – proponent of 'illiberal democracy' – to clamp down on academic freedom.

Zoltan Balogh/MTI/AP
A demonstrator chants slogans during a protest against the amendment of the higher education law that could force a Budapest university founded by billionaire American philanthropist George Soros to close in front of the Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary, on April 9, 2017.

Hungary said on Wednesday there was a way for a university founded by US financier George Soros to continue operations, following protests after opponents said a new law threatened its future.

The law stipulated that the Central European University (CEU) must open a branch in its home state of New York alongside its campus in Budapest and secure a bilateral agreement of support from the US government.

Hungarian Education Secretary Laszlo Palkovics told the news web site on Wednesday the CEU could issue diplomas if it extended a license agreement with its Hungarian sister school to teach its courses.

The government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a critic of liberal civil organizations funded by the Hungarian-born Soros, has said the Central European University had violated regulations in awarding diplomas – an allegation rejected by the college.

The aim of the new legislation, the government says, was to address administrative shortcomings of foreign universities in Hungary. Critics counter that the law is part of a wider crackdown on nongovernment organizations linked to Soros.

The United States had called on Hungary to suspend implementation of the law, which on Sunday drew some of the biggest demonstrations against Mr. Orban’s government by opponents who consider it part of a wider crackdown on dissent.

"We want to see a review and discussion in order to address any concerns through dialog with the university itself and other affected institutions going forward," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said late on Tuesday, according to a transcript of a Washington media briefing posted online.

The law could also threaten the operations of other American universities with degree programs in Hungary, he added.

Hungary also faced criticism from Brussels, with the European Union's executive commission saying the law would be the subject of a debate on Wednesday.

Hungarian President Janos Ader signed the legislation on Monday despite street protests against it in Budapest and condemnation abroad. Another mass rally against the law is planned for later on Wednesday.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Soros-founded university, an island of liberal thought, can stay open, says Hungary
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today