Since the plans for the Budapest campus of China’s top-ranking Fudan University were revealed, domestic and international press have quickly begun casting aspersions on the project. Our critics argue that engaging in cooperation with Fudan University will pose a severe, national security threat to Hungary. While we have heard zero factual basis for such a claim, mainstream media would easily have the unsuspecting reader believe that any cooperation with the Shanghai-based elite university is by definition something that “Western” countries like Hungary should avoid.
Certainly, no party should be questioning what Fudan can bring to the table. It currently ranks 34th on Quacquarelli Symonds’ benchmark list of the world’s top universities. In comparison, the best German university ranks 50th, the University of Copenhagen ranks the highest out of the Nordic countries at 76th, and the best school in Central Europe, the University of Vienna, ranks 150th.
But that’s not all. In establishing a cooperation agreement with Fudan, Hungary is not alone. Many leading universities in the United States, including some of the most prestigious schools like Stanford University, Yale, University of Southern California, MIT and Georgetown, have been involved in close cooperation with Fudan for years, if not decades. Among these initiatives, we find exchange programs, double-degree programs, MBAs, joint doctoral schools and more.
And one doesn’t have to look beyond the Atlantic to come across top universities doing business with Fudan. Not only is the top Chinese university a member of Universitas 21, an international education alliance with the goal of “bringing leading global universities together,” it has been active in building relationships with universities all around Europe. In this spirit, Fudan has, for example, partnered up with five German schools and no less than 24 universities in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden).
All of this begs the question: If the world’s leading universities are actively working together with Fudan University, then why should Hungary miss out on this opportunity? It does not happen every day that one of the best universities in the world wants to set up its first campus outside China in Budapest.
If Hungary is to come out on top in the 21st century, we need to improve our universities. By plugging Hungarian students and professors into the bloodstream of international academic life, Fudan University’s new campus in Budapest could be an invaluable asset in achieving this goal. It goes without saying that the establishment of Fudan Hungary University will also contribute immensely to facilitating Hungarian-Chinese economic and academic cooperation in the future.