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Hungary - Higher Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceHungary - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


Types of—Public & Private: There are no private institutions of higher education with the exception of the 6 foundation universities noted above and the 26 church universities that are run with some support from the state.

Admission Procedures: Admission to Hungarian institutions of higher education commences with the publication of an admissions guide on or around December 15 each year. A central body, the National Office of Higher Education Admissions (NOHEA), publishes this guide. This body also provides information on the criteria required for admission, and sets national university entrance examinations. Their booklet also contains the application forms, which must be submitted by March 1 in the proposed year of entry. (There are two other less significant application periods but these are only for a limited number of subjects and institutions.) This body receives and processes the application forms after March 1 and sets entrance exams. It then acts as a liaison with the institutions of higher education.

Individual institutions have a significant role in the selection and admission of students. Applicants are generally scored on a combination of their scores in the final examination at secondary school, their overall GPA in secondary school, and their score on the NOHEA national examinations. However in practice the individual institutions have significant autonomy in the criteria they use in ranking an applicant. In some cases NOHEA scores alone may be used or the examinations waived (particularly for outstanding students). Language ability is often an important criterion, as is previous professional training. Health and artistic abilities may also be used. Finally a parent who graduated in the proposed profession, particularly law and medicine, may also be a factor. These subjective criteria for admission are awarded as "extra points" when creating an applicant's total score for admission. Essentially the institutions control their entry numbers and choose their entry-level class.

Applicants, on their application form, may apply for several majors and institutions but must rank their choices as they can only be admitted to one institution. The national scores for the NOHEA tests are published in July, and the applicant can then see if he or she has passed the standard for university or college admission. If this is so, at that time the prospective student's secondary or lower choices for colleges are dropped. It is also at this time that the "extra points" are awarded to place students.

It should be noted that in 2000 the Ministry of Education began a process to reform this admissions process, particularly to standardize admissions and make the system more equitable, transparent, and fair. To do this it is expected that greater emphasis will be placed on overall performance in the secondary school system and the final secondary school score and the NEOHA test will be made more responsive to specific applications to specific disciplines. The Ministry hopes to have reformed the secondary school examinations by 2002 and the university entrance exams by 2005. Finally, as part of this overall change, the admittance of more students into higher education is planned. At present only 17 percent of all eligible students are in higher education (up from 12 percent in 1995). The system is therefore seen as elitist and discriminatory.

Administration & Governance: Administration of higher education establishments is conducted by the individual institution with the state acting in an oversight capacity and enforced by granting an accreditation license to award degrees. The senior administrator is the rector (or the director general in a small number of colleges) who is elected by the university faculty for a period of five years, which is a renewable term. The rector reports to an institutional council and a senate that ratifies his decisions but who can also veto his decisions. The state can only intervene in university affairs in theevent of legal irregularities. Thus a university is essentially autonomous in regard to its inner workings. The composition of the governance boards is specified in the Higher Education Act of 1993-1996.

Enrollment: In 1999 there were 62 institutes of higher education in Hungary serving 280,000 students. Most are located in and around Budapest. With the amalgamation of the former Socialist institutions, there has been a move to provide regional centers of educational excellence that in turn will create economic development. Thus the cities of Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged, and Pécs have taken on importance in not only regional education but also regional economic development. Eötvös Loránd University, with 18,500 students and more than 1,000 faculty; the Technical University of Budapest, with 12,300 students and more than 1,000 faculty members; and the Budapest University of Economic Science and Public Administration, with 3,700 students and 375 full time faculty, are the largest institutions of higher education in Budapest. Budapest is also the center for universities and colleges concentrating on music, fine arts, and applied arts. The University of Pécs, with 407 full-time faculty members and 19,500 students; the University of Debrecen, which will have 1,600 full-time faculty members and 14,000 students when 4 institutions are fully amalgamated into 1; and the University of Szeged, catering to 6,000 students with approximately 500 full-time faculty members, have the most students outside Budapest. Highly specialized studies (veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmaceutics, forestry, and horticulture) tend to be located in only one institution, usually in the city and institution that provided that specialization in socialist times. Of all the institutions of higher education, the ecclesiastical institutions catered to 10,303 full-time students and 5,511 evening and correspondence students in 1999 while the foundations catered to 7,582 full-time students and 15,743 evening and correspondence students.

Teaching Styles & Techniques: The principal language of instruction in the institutions is Hungarian. Teaching pedagogy is in the process of slow change from primarily a standard lecture format to a more varied style with wider use of source material. Thus the use of overheads is becoming increasingly common but PowerPoint presentations and the use of Internet sources is still rare.

Finance (Tuition Costs): Typical tuition fees for Hungarian nationals for university courses range from US$75.00 (20,000 HUF) per course rising to $2,200 per semester, but fees for all Hungarian colleges and universities are generally paid for in full by the state in the form of fee waivers. In addition the state may give scholarships for living expenses or support in the form of meals and accommodations. In addition the Hungarian government has substantially increased the number and amount of scholarships for Roma students in higher education in order to increase the number of Roma in higher education. Data indicates only 0.24 percent of the Roma population obtained a degree in higher education in 1999.

Courses, Semesters, & Diplomas: Higher education in Hungary depends on the institution and the level of study. At the college level the length of study is either three or four years. The student receives the equivalent of a baccalaureate degree. For a university degree, the length of study is between four and five years and is equivalent to obtaining a master's degree. The exception to these degrees are degrees in law and medicine in which the law degree can be obtained in four and a half years and medicine is typically of six years duration with significant practical work in the latter part of the prospective lawyer or doctors study.

During the socialist regime, upon completion of the university education, a student could undertake further post-graduate work, usually of a scientific nature. Thus a person could get a doctor universitatis (university doctor or dr. univ) from a university or a candidatus scientiarium (candidate of sciences or C.Sc.) or doctor scientarium (doctor of sciences or D.Sc.) as part of the Academy of Sciences system. However within the Act of 1993 there was the provision for universities to grant a Ph.D. There has been a dramatic change in the number of doctoral degrees awarded from the former system to the new Ph.D. qualification (or a Doctor of Liberal Arts—DLA —in the case of liberal arts) allowed under the law. In all doctoral programs the student is required to pursue a proscribed course of study, undertake original research, and write and defend a dissertation.

Upon completion of their degree program students receive a college graduate degree (fo~iskolai oklevél) or a university graduate degree (egyetemi oklevél) that may be referred to as a Bachelor of or Master of, depending on their study program and its length in order to facilitate comparison with international degrees. In the case of medical doctors, dentists, veterinary doctors or lawyers, their degrees are dr. med, dr. med. dent., dr. vet., and dr. jur., respectively.

All higher education institutes work in a two semester system that commences in September and ends in May with a one-month winter recess.

Professional Education: Universities and colleges can also provide certification programs of shorter duration than typical university courses. This is called Accredited Higher Vocational Training (AHVT) and is typically in a specialized area of applied study. These programs are usually two years in length, taught at colleges (though not exclusively), and in cooperation with secondary vocational schools. The graduate receives a certificate upon graduation, not a diploma. In addition university and college courses may be taught at other campuses to extend the reach of an institute's course offerings. This represents an important source of supplementary income for both institutions and their faculty.

Postgraduate Training: There is a long history in Hungary of post-graduate teaching in the various Academies of Science that was usually linked with the award of the doctorate degree. Out of necessity, this training was highly specialized and found in those specialized institutes established under the socialist system to produce an intellectual elite. This system is gradually being replaced by a system where university professors undertake both research and teaching while former academicians in academies must make their living by teaching as well as undertaking research.

Foreign Students: There are a number of foreign students in Hungarian universities primarily studying at the baccalaureate level. Typical of the extent of foreign students was the University of Pécs with 95 foreign students or 0.5 percent of their total student body in 2001. Seventy-five came from Europe, primarily under the EU Socrates program, and the remainder were American. Many of the students classified as foreign are ethnic Hungarians granted scholarships to study at Hungarian institutions. Thus, for example, ethnic Hungarians living as Croatian citizens in Croatia or Romanian citizens living in Transylvania often study in Hungary. The number of students from Western Europe and the United States is considerably less owing to the difficulty in understanding Hungarian, which is the language of instruction. Many universities provide lectures in English in part to offset this problem, and these courses are often linked to the Socrates/Erasmus program of the EU. Elementary language instruction in Hungarian is also a significant part of Hungarian higher education course offerings. In 1999 there were 448 Americans studying in Hungary.

Students Abroad: Given the difficulty of transition and the uncertain future of the nation, any ability to speak a foreign language, particularly English, and the resultant opportunity to study abroad has become a major incentive to students in higher education completing their studies overseas. This incentive is unfortunately accompanied by a reluctance to return to Hungary to become part of the labor force. Essentially a brain drain is occurring—albeit on a small scale, but enough to warrant concern. In 1999 there were 1,166 Hungarian students in the United States with a little more in Europe, the majority being in Germany. The major deterrent for Hungarian students to study abroad is the high cost of tuition and living expenses outside Hungary. Hence most students studying outside Hungary are on some kind of scholarship. It should also be noted that in 2000, a total of 479 Hungarian scholars were also studying in the United States, the largest of any eastern European country except Poland.

Role of Libraries: As was noted above, libraries have received serious attention since the change from a socialist government. In addition the historic importance placed on education throughout the last 500 years has left an impressive legacy of historic documents and literature that is available for consultation.

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