UPDATE: Dec. 3, 2018: Central European University (CEU) today announced it will begin offering all its U.S.-accredited degree programs in Vienna in September 2019 because it has been barred by Hungary from accepting new students in its Budapest location starting in January.
All incoming students will study at the Vienna location, while already enrolled students will finish their programs in Budapest.
CEU said it has taken steps to comply with Hungarian law for the past 20 months, according to a university news release. However, the country's government has not signed an agreement that was negotiated more than a year ago that would have ensured the long-term operation of the university in Hungary.
"CEU has been forced out," CEU President Michael Ignatieff said in the announcement. "This is unprecedented. A U.S. institution has been driven out a country that is a NATO ally."
- CEU, an American-chartered institution operating for more than two decades in Budapest, Hungary, announced in October that all incoming students will study at its new campus in Vienna if it was unable to get approval "to operate in freedom" from the increasingly far-right Hungarian government by Dec. 1.
- The university said it has met new requirements set by the country's government for foreign higher education institutions. CEU was founded by George Soros, the Hungarian-born philanthropist known for his support of left-leaning causes, which has created tension with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán — whose signature is required for CEU to stay.
- CEU's 1,400 current students will be able to complete their degrees at the Budapest campus, and decisions on locations for staff and faculty have yet to be made.
As it has expanded its footprint abroad, U.S. higher education has had to navigate government policies in host countries that risk limiting academic freedom or otherwise don't reflect American academic values. As of December 2017, there were more than 50 U.S. universities operating or developing 77 branch campuses outside the country, according to the Cross-Border Education Research Team at the University at Albany, SUNY. That's up from 59 branches in 2005.
CEU's story, while unique, draws attention to the risks of establishing branch campuses abroad amid increasing political instability, Education Dive reported earlier this year. Georgetown University offers another example, having to address labor rights issues for migrants when it built out its campus in Qatar, which opened in 2005.
Reconciling competing priorities and perspectives among parties to international higher education partnerships can be a challenge. And they often lead to questions of compromise. During a panel session at a 2016 gathering of the Scholars at Risk network, participants suggested American institutions may be willing to ignore such abuses to gain the revenue and prestige that an international presence can bring, or even participate in objectionable foreign government activities.
More recently, the nearly two dozen American universities with campuses or interests in Saudi Arabia are being called to consider their ties to the country following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey, Inside Higher Ed reported. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced in a letter to faculty that it is reassessing its involvement in the country.