Tartu students protest against treatment of Central European University

University of Tartu students demonstrating in solidarity with CEU. Source: (Susann Kivi/ERR)

Students of the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu expressed their solidarity with Budapest's Central European University on Thursday. The university’s existence is threatened by a new law to be introduced by the national-conservative government of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.

A new law to be introduced in Hungary would make it impossible for the Central European University (CEU) to remain open. The school, founded in 1991 with the support of Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, offers its students American degrees, which is possible because it is registered and licensed both in the U.S. and in Hungary.

This connection is what the Hungarian government aims at with a new bill calling for a change in the way higher education is licensed and arranged. To remain open, the CEU would have to found a second campus in the United States—an undertaking far beyond its financial capabilities, according to its president, Michael Ignatieff.

The CEU has an excellent reputation and regularly ranks among the top 50 universities of its kind in the world. At the same time, it is seen by Hungary’s nationalist establishment as a potential source of unrest, as it promotes decidedly more liberal values than the government does.

The protest of the students at Tartu’s Johan Skytte Institute was organized by one of its post-graduate students, Gert Siniloo. According to Siniloo, the students wanted to express their concern over the danger to the independence of universities in Hungary.

“What is happening in Hungary is a direct attack on academic freedom,” Siniloo said. “Considering our institute’s close connections with the CEU, the students found that we need to show our solidarity.”

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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