St. Hugh’s condemns attack on European university

Legislation has threatened to close the Central European University

St. Hugh’s JCR voted unanimously to express “solidarity” with students and faculty members of the Central European University (CEU) as a government act threatens to force the institution to close.

Under the legislation, CEU employees will require work permits, limiting the University’s ability to recruit staff.

The government has also demanded that the CEU opens a campus in America and no longer teaches US-accredited courses.

The JCR voted to “condemn the actions taken against the Central European University by the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán and his government”. It condemned the legislation as “an attack on the values of academic freedom, democracy, and open society”.

Radim Lacina, who proposed the motion, welcomed the passing of the motion as an affirmation of the “basic values of academic freedom and democracy”.

He added: “As an isolated act, the proclamation of the JCR has little impact. However, were this issue to gain traction and were it brought to the attention of OUSU and the University, then actions with considerable consequences might take place”.

Elise Page, who seconded the motion, argued: “We shouldn’t underestimate our power as a group of students, not just as St Hugh’s JCR but as OUSU, and as the NUS.

“We care passionately about the freedom of education, and we won’t be silent. With our continued pressure and vocality, the CEU will hopefully be able to continue to educate without hindrance”.

The CEU was founded in 1991 by financier and philanthropist George Soros, with whom Prime Minister Orbán has repeatedly disagreed.

The institution has become one of Europe’s most prestigious universities for social sciences and humanities with the attack on the institution seen as part of Prime Minister Orbán’s self-professed aim to establish an “illiberal” democracy.

Since the electoral triumph of Orbán’s Fidesz party in 2010, the government has also attacked independent media organizations and NGOs.

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In Hungary, the legislation threatening the CEU has been met with an eruption of protest, with a series of large demonstrations in Budapest since its passing in the Nation Assembly.

The issue has also become the subject of a European Commission investigation as a potential breach of EU law.

St. Hugh’s JCR maintained that this attack on academic freedoms proved “to be a danger to Hungarian democracy” and affirmed their support for the survival of values such as “free academic endeavour, of free exchange of ideas, and of a democratic and open society”.

Hungary is the 21st largest economy in the European Union which it joined in 2004.

It is located around 1,167 miles from St Hugh’s JCR.