AHA Letter in Support of Central European University (April 2017)

The American Historical Association has sent a letter to President János Áder of Hungary opposing legislation passed by the Hungarian Parliament that targets Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. The restrictions on institutional autonomy in the legislation would undermine CEU's mission of furthering scholarly collaboration between Europe and the United States. The AHA's letter urges President Áder to preserve international cooperation and the integrity of a national and international educational resource by refraining from signing the legislation.

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April 5, 2017
Dr. János Áder
President, Republic of Hungary
Sándor-Palace, 1014 Budapest, Szent György tér 1-2.
1536 Budapest, Pf. 227

Dear President Áder:

The American Historical Association, the largest organization of historians in the world with approximately 12,000 members, has serious concerns about recently passed legislation in the Hungarian Parliament that would change the status of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. This legislation bans CEU from granting American graduate degrees and requires the university to open a campus in the United States. It also diminishes the university’s independent authority to hire new faculty and select students. The law not only restricts the academic autonomy of CEU but also endangers its core mission of serving as a bridge between scholarly communities in Europe and America. We most strongly urge you not to approve this legislation.

This evisceration of the work of CEU would deprive Hungary, Europe, and the world of a valuable intellectual resource. Students from throughout the world have studied at the university, whose sterling global reputation is well deserved. Its faculty members have won many competitive awards. Many of our members have had personal experiences with CEU and attest to its important role in their own intellectual and academic development. Although a private university, CEU has always operated in accordance with Hungarian law, and it has become a leader in European education in both the social sciences and the humanities. CEU is, moreover, a prominent example of international scholarly collaboration; it is not only a Hungarian university but also an American institution accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

One of the American Historical Association’s most important values is a belief in the importance of academic freedom for scholarly research. A key component of such research is international institutional cooperation. We fear that if the amendments to Act CCIV on National Higher Education are adopted, the change will have severely negative consequences not only for CEU but also for Hungary’s role within the international scholarly community.

On behalf of the American Historical Association I urge you to refrain from signing this ill-conceived legislation.


Tyler Stovall
President, American Historical Association