Academic freedom and the “Program of Excellence” in Hungary

Published on: 12 Mar 2019

The CHA urges the Hungarian government to rescind political control of university research

12 March, 2019
Viktor Orbán
Prime Minister                                                                        
1357 Budapest, Pf. 6.
Dear Prime Minister Orbán, 
On behalf of the Canadian Historical Association, the largest association representing professional historians in Canada with more than 850 members, I am writing to express our support for our colleagues and counterparts in Hungary, and to urge you to value and respect the research and teaching capacity of your country and its connection to democracy.
The most recent in a series of actions undermining confidence in your country’s commitment to academic freedom is the “Program of Excellence” launched on January 31, 2019, by the National Office for Research, Development, and Innovation. The program’s opaque evaluation system is subject to political influence and constitutes a violation of fundamental principles of academic freedom. Basic research is being placed under governmental funding and direct political control. We urge you to reverse this decision and restore the role of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary’s oldest and most prominent scholarly and scientific institution, as an independent, non-partisan body allocating funds.
This is the most recent of a series of actions that work to undermine the principles of open inquiry, research, and scholarship. These include the October 2018 banning of gender studies programmes, a well-established scholarly discipline, and introducing a tax on organizations, including universities, supporting immigrants. That the Central European University will be moving from Budapest to Vienna in the September of 2019 is a clear sign of the perilous climate for scholarship and teaching.
A robust scholarly community that operates at arms’ length from government is a hallmark of a democratic society. The Canadian Historical Association joins many scholarly, government, and NGOs around the world to express our support of Hungarian colleagues and to urge your government to retract political control of university research and to re-establish Hungary’s post WWII history of research excellence and academic freedom.

Adele Perry
Canadian Historical Association
cc. Prof. László Lovász
President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences,
Dr. Bálint Ódor
Hungarian Ambassador to Canada
299 Waverley Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0V9

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