The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson, has called on the Hungarian Government to reconsider legislation changes affecting Budapest’s Central European University. In a letter to the Financial Times, Professor Richardson, a member of the Central European University Board of Trustees, warns that the proposed changes ‘would endanger the academic freedom vital for CEU’s continued operation in Budapest and would strike a blow against the values that enable all universities to flourish.’
The full text of Professor Richardson’s letter reads:
The Hungarian Government is proposing legislative changes which will prevent Budapest’s Central European University from awarding degrees accredited in both the US and Hungary. These changes would endanger the academic freedom vital for CEU’s continued operation in Budapest, and would strike a blow against the values that enable all universities to flourish.
In twenty-five years, Central European University has established itself as a private international university with a global reputation for excellence in teaching and research in the social sciences and humanities. It attracts students from 117 countries and faculty from 40. CEU’s masters and doctoral programmes are accredited by the Regents of the State of New York. The University as a whole is accredited by the US Middle States Commission on Higher Education. CEU’s programmes are also certified by appropriate Hungarian authorities. The university has complied in full with all Hungarian laws.
In a very short time, CEU has acquired global recognition among its peer universities around the world. In international rankings, some of CEU’s departments are rated among the top 50 in the world. It is the most successful institution in securing European Research Council grants in Central and Eastern Europe. Several of its faculty, in fields as various as medieval studies and network and cognitive science, have won the most prestigious awards in their disciplines.
CEU’s achievements have made it a valued member of the international academic community. Its presence in Hungary has added to the reputation of Hungarian academic life on the international stage. I believe that the government’s proposed legislation to alter its statutes of operation in Hungary would compromise its academic freedom, would abrogate prior agreements with and assurances from the Hungarian Government, and would set a dangerous precedent by curtailing the indispensable condition of academic freedom and independence.
As Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and a recently elected member of the Board of Trustees of the Central European University, I respectfully urge the Hungarian government to reconsider this proposed legislation. They should bear in mind the damage it would do not only to this admirable university but also to Hungary’s international academic reputation, and its long and proud tradition as a home for culture, the arts and intellectual achievement.
Professor Louise Richardson
Vice-Chancellor, Oxford University