Feature: Lex CEU - Orbán’s attack on academic freedom

Feature: Lex CEU - Orbán’s attack on academic freedom in Europe

On April 4th 2017, the Hungarian government passed amendments to the Higher Education Act which in their particular formulation are obviously directed against the renowned Central European University (CEU), based in Budapest.

  • The CEU has educated students from more than 100 countries in humanities and social sciences for 25 years, and has contributed significantly to academic culture and diversity in Hungary and Europe. The largest group of students comes from Hungary.
  • The university was founded by George Soros, against whom Hungary’s prime minister has waged a bitter struggle for several years. As a young politician, Orbán studied in Oxford on a Soros scholarship in 1989-90; today, he accuses Soros of being a “background power”. In response to former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s accusation that Poland and Hungary are striving for a “Putin-like leadership”, Orbán responded by saying: “The mouth belongs to Clinton but the voice is of George Soros.”
  • Moreover, Orbán insinuated that through his support for refugee organisations, Soros was “organising mass migration” with the aim of destabilising Europe. Orbán has repeatedly referred to non-governmental organisations supported by Soros funding programmes as “political activists paid from abroad”, and in early 2017 he announced that Soros-funded organisations would be “swept out of the country”.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation condemns the Hungarian government’s attacks on independent and critical thinking in Hungary and Europe, and urges the German government and EU institutions to speak out in the most forceful terms against the Hungarian government’s assault on CEU: #IstandwithCEU, Save Central European University!

On this site we publish articles on Orbán’s Lex CEU and his attack on academic freedom. You can find more current articles on Hungary in our dossier “Focus on Hungary”.

CEU Rector Michael Ignatieff made the following statement during a CEU press conference on 29 March:

“The legislation attacks the CEU and is an entirely unacceptable assault on our academic freedom – and not just our academic freedom: the academic freedom of Hungarian higher education in general.”

Recent articles on Orbán's Lex CEU

In the beginning of April, the Hungarian President János Áder signed into force certain amendments to the Higher Education Act which in their particular formulation are obviously directed against the renowned Central European University (CEU), based in Budapest. We discussed with President Michael Ignatieff the implications of the new legislation on the university and its future prospects.
A blue badge saying "#I stand with CEU"

The attack on CEU is one in a series of attempts to eliminate the so-called enemies of illiberal democracy. The government has manufactured a fear-inducing narrative by inventing an imaginary enemy threatening the people of Hungary.

Demonstration for Freedom of Education

Europe seems to face a more immediate threat than Le Pen. It comes from a central European country whose governing party belongs to the most mainstream European party, the European People’s Party, Hungary.


Academics in the field of gender studies do not normally experience a high level of public interest in their work, yet in recent months things have taken a turn in Hungary.

April 2017, protests against the closure of the Central European University in Budapest

If Hungarian President János Áder signs the law, it will most probably have serious consequences for Hungary’s diplomatic relations. No less importantly, it will mark the beginning of the end of an independent academic sector in the country.


Thousands of people are protesting against the close down of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. It is a political battle about “foreign influences” and pro or anti EU, US or Russia sentiments.

Further articles and publications on Hungary

Our dossier on Hungary is as a forum for critical voices since the right-wing government came to power in April 2010. The contributions reflect the socio-political changes as well as long-term developments.