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  • Orbán: educating the new Hungarians

    - While the atmosphere in Hungary is turning ever more autocratic and the Fidesz-run Government is slowly undoing the separation of powers, Hungarian students are driven into technical faculties and legally bound to work in Hungary after graduation. ScienceGuide interviews student leader Dávid Kiss.

    The last couple of months a steady flow of ´revolutionary measures´ passes the Hungarian Parliament. There has been much criticism on PM Viktor Orbán´s new media law, which let a Fidesz committee decide on the objectivity and balance news reporting and can require journalists to disclose their sources if ´national security an public order´ would be at stake. The Election Law has been rewritten in such a way that the newly drafted constituencies support the governing Fidesz-party. Recently the government has put the judiciary under direct political influence. The power to appoint new judges lies with the recently established Fidesz-run National Judiciary Office.

    In the midst of all these developments little attention has been paid to the educational reforms Hungary is embarking on. "The Education Bill has already been adopted. One day before Christmas it quickly passed through parliament. But we are still awaiting a series of by-laws," says Dávid Kiss (board member of the national students union HÖOK). The Bill centers on new Hungarian values such as diligence, honest work, honor family, love for the country.

    Fidesz turns around 

    Two important traits of the Education Bill are criticized by HÖOK. Firstly the Orbán Government has rather briskly changed the financing of higher education. Dávid Kiss: "Last year there were around 50.000 State financed places in higher education. The new legislation has cut that number to 35.000 places that are completely State financed and another 15.000 semi financed places. It is cynical that Fidesz introduces this measure as they strongly opposed the introduction of tuition fees in a referendum in 2008."

    Those students that will receive a State subsidy in the future will have to sign a contract in which they promise to remain in Hungary for at least ten years of the twenty years following their graduation. Dávid Kiss can partly understand this, "but it would be much better to improve the circumstances for young people entering the Hungarian labor market."

    Secondly the Orbán Government intends to push young people more and more towards the technical studies and out of the humanities. Dávid Kiss: "The budgets are not generally cut. It's especially the social sciences, business and economic sciences that will disappear. They say we have enough lawyers, enough economists, we need more engineers."

    Faculty under fire 

    Dávid Kiss personally experienced the drive of the government to cut down on the social sciences. His Social Science Faculty at the famous Corvinus University was threatened with closure last November. It caused broad student's protests in Budapest. "It was a big shock for us", says Kiss, "but they did not succeed in the end. The faculty of Social Science at Corvinus University is still up and running."

    Another part of the same Corvinus University, the faculty of Public Administration, has recently become part of PM Orbán's new National University of Public Service. "We want to train people who will dedicate their life to serving their country and the public", Viktor Orbán said at the opening speech. "We will not allow anyone to steer us away from pursuing our goals in the future."

    The question remains: what are the goals of Viktor Orbán. According to Dávid Kiss Hungary is not on its way to becoming anti-democratic. "Or at least I don't believe the aims of the current government are anti-democratic, but the ways to reach the aims are."