Hungary's ultra-right government wants to shut down its storied, amazing Central European University

CEU is an American university in the heart of Budapest, founded by George Soros, who is no friend of the far-right, xenophobic Prime Minister Viktor Orban — which may be why a new law requiring all foreign universities in Hungary to have a branch in their home country uniquely endangers CEU.

I've lectured several times at CEU in their grad programs, and been consistently impressed with the quality of scholars the institution attracts from around the work, and the caliber of their research.

Hungarian officials say the legislation doesn't have anything to do with Soros or CEU, even though the new requirement doesn't affect Hungary's 27 other non-EU universities, which all have campuses abroad.

They say the changes are needed because foreign-funded universities are operating outside the law. But many Hungarians, and certainly Orban's critics in and outside of the country, believe the legislation is a clear attempt to shut down CEU.

If the legislation passes, the law would take effect in September and CEU would have to open a campus in the United States by Feb. 15, 2018, if it wants to stay open. That is something the university says "would have no educational benefit and would incur needless financial and human resource costs."

The bill "is a threat to our continued existence in Hungary," Michael Ignatieff, CEU's president and rector, told reporters at a news conference. He vowed to fight back, adding: "This university is not going to close under any circumstance and we won't be pushed around."

Hungarian Legislation Threatens American University In Budapest
[Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR]

(Image: Central European University Front, Ok2play, PD)