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Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orban, has boasted of his intention to create an “illiberal” state, and this week took two major steps toward wiping out liberal arts education.
The Budapest-based Central European University has announced that it will suspend its pioneering Open Learning Initiative, a program that offered free non-degree courses to refugees and asylum-seekers. It will be the first victim of a recent law imposing a 25 percent tax on spending by nongovernmental organizations on programs that “directly or indirectly aim to promote immigration.”
The law is part of a package of draconian anti-immigration measures known as the “Stop Soros” bill, passed this summer. Hungarian-born investor George Soros has long been the arch-nemesis of Orban and his supporters, blamed for bringing refugees into the country and undermining Hungary’s Christian culture. Soros has also been a major funder of educational programs in Hungary, including the Central European University as well as the scholarship that allowed Orban to study at Oxford in 1989.
Hungarians looking for alternatives to Orban’s illiberal vision of education may increasingly have to look, as he once did in the waning days of communism, for opportunities outside Hungary.