Hungary has removed gender studies from a list of approved master's programs following publication of a government decree signed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán Friday, the Hungarian news site 444.hu reported. Students who are already enrolled in gender studies programs will be permitted to continue their studies.
Hungary's right-wing government originally proposed banning gender programs in August. At the time, Gergely Gulyas, Orbán’s chief of staff, cited as the rationale low enrollment numbers as well as the government’s ideological opposition to gender studies programs. “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women. They lead their lives the way they think best, but beyond this, the Hungarian state does not wish to spend public funds on education in this area,” Gulyas said, according to Reuters.
Central European University, which is one of two Hungarian universities to offer programs in gender studies, issued a statement on Tuesday expressing "its strong opposition to the removal of gender studies from the list of accredited M.A. programs in Hungary.” A spokeswoman told Inside Higher Ed that the move means that the private university will not be able to continue its Hungarian-accredited programs in gender studies.
“This is a major infringement on academic freedom and university autonomy,” CEU, which has both Hungarian and American accreditation, said in its statement. “Gender studies is an internationally recognized academic field, which produces socially relevant knowledge, and which has been taught at CEU for well over two decades. Eliminating this program will be a significant loss to the Hungarian scholarly community and for democratically-minded public policy makers. CEU will continue teaching and research in this field via its U.S. accredited M.A. and Ph.D. programs.”
The European Parliament cited attacks on academic freedom in voting in September to authorize the first step in a process that could ultimately lead to sanctions against Hungary. The Parliament passed a measure asking European Union member states to determine if Hungary was at risk of violating the founding values of the union, including values related to academic freedom. The text of the measure passed by the European Parliament discussed concerns about the plans to ban gender studies programs as well as about the passage of a 2017 law on foreign branch campuses that was widely seen as intended to force CEU out of Hungary.