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Mar 29, 2017 - Zoltán Kovács

Every university – domestic or foreign – must follow the rules

A comprehensive study on 28 foreign institutions of higher education operating in Hungary reveals that not all of these educational service providers abide by existing regulations

Hungarian students enjoy a wide variety of foreign institutions of higher education, colleges and universities, operating in the country. However, a comprehensive study on 28 of them reveals that not all of these educational service providers abide by existing Hungarian regulations in education and, in some areas, the regulations need improvement. Foreign institutions of higher learning, from the territory of the European Union or beyond, that provide quality formation are a valuable asset. But everyone has to follow the rules.

Hungary’s Education Authority began its review procedure in the second half of 2016 due to the fact that the five-year operating licenses of these education institutions are set to expire this year. During the review, the Education Authority uncovered several illegitimate practices, including the following: institutions of higher education are not running courses within the required legal framework; some programs are not accredited; qualifications issued by foreign institutions of higher education are not nationally recognized; foreign institutions of higher education do not qualify as nationally recognized institutions of higher education in their countries of origin; institutions are not providing the required information to the public register; and institutions of higher education are running courses that they have not officially recorded.

One of the 28 institutions concerned is the Central European University, which was founded by billionaire George Soros. With Soros, and the organizations funded by him in the region, the government has a major disagreement over policies regarding illegal migration. The government of Hungary is not alone in this disagreement. But this and the education review procedure are two separate matters.

“Every [educational] institution must abide by the effective Hungarian law,” Minister of State for Higher Education László Palkovics said in a press conference today. He added that institutions will have until February 2018 to meet the new criteria. Responding to a question regarding the education review and the Soros-founded CEU, Palkovics said that he is to meet CEU’s rector later tonight to review the situation together.

Among the irregularities that the review uncovered, the biggest controversy emerges when an institution is not recognized as an institution of higher education in its own country. Another common problem is that program accreditation by an independent, external higher education accreditation agency or organization is not a mandatory precondition for running higher education courses right now.

The root of some of these regulatory problems lies in insufficient existing regulations. Current rules allow these institutions to run lengthy programs under licenses that were meant to be for temporary programs. So, the regulation must be made clarified and in some cases tightened up.

Hungary, while updating these regulations based on the findings of the Educational Authority’s standard review, has no intention of alienating any foreign institutions that provide quality educational services in the country. However, the aim is to create a regulatory framework that serves for the long-run and where the goals and conditions for operation are clear. That’s what’s behind the new legislation now under consideration and there’s nothing in it that cannot be met by a proper, foreign higher education service provider.

Every foreign university or college is welcome to provide services and admit students in Hungary. But they must respect the law, and in order for them to do so, the law must be clear.