Published: Tue, April 11, 2017
Science | By Boyd Webster

Hungary: Thousands rally in support of Soros-founded school

Hungary: Thousands rally in support of Soros-founded school

Tens of thousands people, close to 70,000 according to the organizers, took part in demonstrations Sunday here to show support for the Central European University (CEU).

Protesters filling Kossuth Square outside the parliament said they want President Janos Ader to veto the legislation.

Demonstrators argue with police officers protecting near the Parliament building protesting against the amendment of the higher education law that could force a Budapest university founded by billionaire American philanthropist George Soros to close, in front of the Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, April 9, 2017.

Hungary's president on Monday signed a law that sets new requirements for foreign universities and could force out Central European University, one of Hungary's top global schools founded by USA financier George Soros.

CEU Rector Michael Ignatieff has previously said the bill marks "the first time that a member of the European Union dared to legislate an attack on the academic freedom of a university".

Nonetheless, Ader acknowledged that the fast-tracked approval of the law and some of the new conditions "provoked antipathy in many people". "CEU ... is the training ground for the opponents of Putin and other illiberal politicians", Robert Braun, a former political consultant, said in an article published in the hvg.hu online magazine. "Free country, free university!" "The country where the government closes schools can not succeed".

The Hungarian-born Soros founded Central European University in 1991.

The bill was approved by lawmakers from Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party and their Christian Democrat allies last week. But the situation with foreign universities is different, said Attila Juhasz, a political analyst at think tank Political Capital.

OPINION: Why is Hungary trying to shut down a university? "You can trust in this in the future, too". He says that CEU is "cheating" because it doesn't have a USA campus but issues diplomas recognized in both countries.

But critics claim it's part of a wider government crackdown on dissent with right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban opposing the liberal outlook of both the CEU and many non-governmental organisations.

Orban, an early supporter of US President Donald Trump, especially his anti-migrant stance and the vow to end America's "democracy export", said "goodwill" will lead the two governments and "therefore there is no reason for anyone to be nervous".

But the governing Fidesz party - officials from which have repeatedly referred to CEU as "the Soros university" - see it as a bastion of progressive liberalism which has nothing to do with Education, and everything to do with training activists.

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