April 10th, 2017
His Excellency Dr. Janos Ader
President of the Republic of Hungary
Office of the President of the Republic of Hungary
1536 Budapest, Pf. 227 Hungary
Dear President Ader,
We are writing on behalf of the British Society for the History of Philosophy (as instructed by that Society's annual general meeting on April 7th) to express our solidarity with Central European University and our concern regarding Bill T/14686 amending the Hungarian Higher Education Act which was accepted by the Hungarian Parliament on April 4, 2017. The Bill renders CEU's continued operations in Budapest virtually impossible and strikes a severe blow against the academic freedom that enables all universities, including those in Hungary, to flourish. The bill also raises significant legal and constitutional concerns.
We respectfully urge you not to sign the Bill and instead to refer it to the Constitutional Court of Hungary on the following grounds, among others:
• It limits the right to education and freedom of science, research, and academic life.
• It discriminates by disproportionately targeting foreign higher education institutions by requiring them to operate a campus in their country of origin.
• It breaches law-making procedures. The bill was adopted in an exceptional procedure and without consultation with the affected parties, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the Hungarian Rectors' Conference, as entitled under law.
• It causes severe damage to a very well-respected and significant academic institution for no clear or respectable reason.
In twenty-five years, Central European University has established itself as a private international university with a global reputation for teaching and research in the social sciences and humanities. It attracts students from 117 countries and faculty from 40. The University as a whole is accredited by the US Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), and its masters and doctoral programs are registered by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Its programs are also certified by appropriate Hungarian authorities and it has complied in full with all Hungarian laws. We note especially that the philosophy department is home to world class scholars, attracts visiting philosophers from all over the world to spend time in Hungary, and has produced PhD students who have gone on to work at leading universities in Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the US and the UK. Many outstanding philosophers have chosen to make their home at Central European University.
The amendment affects more than CEU. It threatens academic freedom throughout Hungary, which in turn will have negative consequences for investment and employment in Hungary. The cause of academic freedom has strong support from private citizens and institutions in Hungary and around the world. These include the distinguished Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Corvinus University, ELTE University, University of Szeged, and many universities around the world—from Oxford and Cambridge to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and scores of others. The European Commissioner for Education, Culture, and Sport, Tibor Navracsics; former President of the Republic of Hungary, Laszlo Solyom; German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeyer; former Governor of New York George Pataki; the U.S. Department of State, as well as 19 Nobel Laureates have also publicly voiced their concern. Additionally, over 47,000 petitioners and more than 1,400 individuals have written to Prime Minister Orban and Minister Balog in support of academic freedom and CEU.
We urge you to act on your Presidential prerogative and send the Bill to the Constitutional Court of Hungary where the above concerns regarding its legality and constitutionality can be appropriately reviewed to protect the proud tradition of Hungarian academic life and preserve its autonomy and freedom.
Stephen R.L.Clark (Chair BSHP 2014-17), Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Liverpool
Maria Rosa Antognazza (Chair BSHP 2017-20), Professor of Philosophy, King's College London.