The Board of Trustees of Central European University (CEU) announced today that incoming students for its U.S.-accredited masters and doctoral programs will study at a new campus in Vienna beginning in the academic year 2019-20. The Trustees authorized the move as of December 1, 2018 because the Hungarian government has not concluded an agreement allowing CEU to operate in freedom in Hungary as a U.S. institution chartered in New York State.
„We have taken all necessary actions in order to comply with Lex CEU. We have repeatedly indicated our openness to find a solution that guarantees our institutional integrity and academic freedom. We have waited as long as we possibly can,“ said CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff. „But it would be irresponsible for us not to pursue arrangements to secure CEU’s future. Unfortunately, we have been forced into this decision by the unwillingness of the Hungarian government to offer an acceptable solution.“
The decision comes in the face of the Hungarian government’s crackdown on academic freedom, including a government ban on gender studies programs, the forced suspension of research related to migration, and punitive tax measures.
CEU has sought to remain in operation in Budapest, its home for more than 25 years. But the Hungarian Government has kept CEU in legal limbo since April 2017.
„For 18 months, we have defended our right to remain as a U.S. degree-granting institution in Budapest, but we are unable to secure the guarantees we need from the Hungarian government to preserve our academic freedom,“ said Ignatieff.
„CEU remains committed to Budapest and will continue to enhance the intellectual and cultural life of the city,“ added Ignatieff. „We will maintain as much research and educational activity in Budapest as possible.“
Since Lex CEU, the University has worked to find a solution that would guarantee its academic freedom. The State of New York successfully negotiated an agreement with Hungary allowing CEU to retain its American accreditation. CEU is in full compliance with the conditions required by the government.
CEU established educational programs with our partner institution, Bard College. In compliance with that draft agreement, Hungarian authorities inspected these programs and the New York State Board of Education confirmed to the Hungarian authorities that CEU was in compliance with the agreement by offering educational activity in the State of New York.
Nevertheless, the Hungarian authorities have indicated that they would not sign the New York State agreement. All attempts to find a solution that would enable CEU to remain as a U.S. degree-granting institution in Budapest have failed.
“CEU has received a warm welcome from both the City of Vienna and the Government of Austria for which we are deeply grateful,” said Leon Botstein, Chair of the CEU Board of Trustees. “We look forward to offering students from more than 90 countries the opportunity to study in another great Central European capital.”
“The move signals CEU’s return to its original vision of multiple campuses,” said Botstein, who has been involved with the university since the idea was raised in 1990.
The CEU Board of Trustees and President and Rector Ignatieff recognized the efforts of U.S. Ambassador David Cornstein. „We are grateful to Ambassador David Cornstein for his exceptional efforts to defend CEU. We also thank the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Congress, the Office of the Governor of the State of New York, and the New York State Education Department for their best efforts.“
„In addition, we thank the tens of thousands of supporters from around the world, including several dozen Nobel Prize winners, the late Kofi Annan, university leadership from Oxford to Columbia to Stanford, and thousands of Hungarian academics and individuals. We will never forget your support and your friendship,“ Ignatieff said.
In 2019-20, first-year students will start in Vienna, and will receive U.S.-accredited degrees. Already enrolled students may remain in Budapest to complete their degrees. Further decisions on locations for staff and faculty will be made in consultation within the CEU community.