Fighting for its Future? Hungary’s CEU to Seek Advice from US |

Fighting for its Future? Hungary’s CEU to Seek Advice from US

By Tim Dhoul

Updated April 12, 2017 Updated April 12, 2017

Budapest’s Central European University (CEU), home to CEU Business School and one of the region’s leading MBA programs, says it remains unclear as to the necessity of legislative changes proposed by Viktor Orban’s government that could see it cease operations in Hungary.

“We are willing to remain in dialogue with the government but cannot accept the tabled legislation as a basis for discussion,” said CEU’s president and rector, Michael Ignatieff, following a meeting with government officials. Ignatieff now plans to travel to the US to present the university’s case to US lawmakers and media.

The proposals from Hungary’s government argue that the country needs stricter higher education regulation, referencing institutions with links abroad in particular. One of the measures, for example, would require Hungarian universities offering degrees with non-European accreditation to open new campuses abroad.

CEU, which is in its 26th year, currently awards both Hungarian and US-accredited degrees. It argues that the proposed changes, “would make it impossible for the university to continue its operations as an institution of higher education in Budapest,” and that it is being deliberately targeted. Many see the proposed measures as part of a continuing feud between Orban and CEU’s founder, the US/Hungarian business magnate and billionaire, George Soros.

MBA and executive MBA program options at CEU Business School

The one-year MBA program at CEU Business School is one of the institution’s US-accredited programs and has additional recognition from AMBA. The institution is a member of QS’s latest guide to the world’s best places for full-time MBA study, the QS Global 250 Business Schools Report 2017.

CEU Business School also offers an executive MBA and, last month, hosted a one-week residency for the latest class of the IMM Global Executive MBA Program, which ranks 10th in the QS Global Joint EMBA Rankings 2017. Offered in partnership between five business schools in the US, Netherlands, Hungary, China and Brazil, this 19-month EMBA program leads to two degrees – from Purdue University and from one of CEU Business School and TIAS School for Business and Society in the Netherlands (the choice of the participant).

The school started out as the International Management Center in 1988, before becoming the official business school of Central European University in 2002. In a statement, CEU says it would have to establish an additional campus in the state of New York at, “needless financial and human resource costs,” should the legislation go through in its current form. The university also points out that its current degree-conferring status is not unusual. “CEU is one of many American-accredited international universities that do not operate any academic programs within the US.”

“Any legislative change that would force CEU to cease operation in Budapest would damage Hungarian academic life and negatively impact the government of Hungary's relations with its neighbors, its EU partners and with the United States,” cautioned Ignatieff in the university’s original response to the proposals.  

CEU president: “We are a Hungarian institution, and we absolutely love being here”

Michael Ignatieff led the Liberal Party of Canada when it was in opposition between 2008 and 2011 – the party that is now in power under Justin Trudeau’s stewardship. President at CEU since the start of the current academic year, Ignatieff gave some enlightening views on the university’s relationship to Hungary’s government, and to George Soros, in an interview with the Hungarian site,, at the start of this year:

“I regularly meet the members of the government, ministers and the leaders of Hungarian universities, and my colleagues too. My message is simple. We are a Hungarian institution, and we absolutely love being here. The other side of the coin is that our founder is attacked. This is about politics, we understand that, and in my opinion, the government also understands that we are a university, not a party.”

In the same interview, Ignatieff also spoke in more general terms about today’s political environment: “The country where everything is about politics is an ailing one. In a healthy country, politics is only one of the many things people engage in. The politicization of every aspect of life means the death of a country, and more and more countries are heading in that direction.”

This article was originally published in March 2017 . It was last updated in April 2017

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Written by

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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