University founded by George Soros kicked out of Hungary; will move to Vienna

By Nicholas Sakelaris
University founded by George Soros kicked out of Hungary; will move to Vienna
Protesters rally at an event called 'We Stand With CEU' in downtown Budapest, Hungary, on October 26. Zsolt Szigetvary/EPA-EFE

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Central European University said Monday it's been forced to leave Hungary after years of bitter legal battles with the country's ruling party.

CEU said in an announcement Monday it will move to Vienna, Austria, for the 2019-2020 academic year. Current students, though, can finish their studies at the Budapest campus.


CEU's Hungary campus was established in 1991 by George Soros, a Democratic U.S. billionaire. Soros was one of several Democrats targeted in September by a series of mailed bomb-like devices.

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban and his party have fought the school for years, citing a law that requires universities to have a location in New York, where they are accredited.

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University officials said they jumped through the required hoops, opening a satellite campus in New York and signing an international agreement -- but Hungary never finalized the deal it negotiated.

"CEU has been forced out," school President and Rector Michael Ignatieff said. "This is unprecedented. A U.S. institution has been driven out of a country that is a NATO ally. A European institution has been ousted from a member state of the EU."


A Hungarian government spokesman called CEU's New York satellite campus at Bard College "something like a potemkin campus" that fails to satisfy the law.

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"They do not recognize the activity that we are conducting," Ignatieff said in October. "We cannot operate legally in Hungary as a free U.S. accredited institution. We are being forced out of the country that has been our home for 26 years."

Ignatieff has called the government's decision to close the college an injustice toward the university's 1,200 master's and doctoral students. The school said it will continue teaching and research activities in Budapest as long as possible.

CEU Board of Trustees Chairman Leon Botstein said Austria has welcomed the school as part of its commitment to freedom and research.

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"Despite our consternation at being forced to leave Budapest, we are excited to offer our students the opportunity to study in another great Central European city," Botstein said.

CEU students rallied to show their opposition in Kossuth Lajos Square, where Hungarian Parliament meets. They set up tents and have stayed there; professors delivered speeches in English and Hungarian. The Students4CEU called for an end to "all censorship" of higher education and ensure accessible, independent and well-funded education and research.


Protest organizer Max de Blank said the next step is to build a "sustainable coalition" to challenge government policies. He was enrolled in gender studies at CEU, a field of study the government banned in October because it was deemed an "ideology" rather than a science.

"The attacks on academic freedom aren't only restricted to just one university," de Blank said at the time.

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