Chapter 11 University Governance Reform in an Illiberal Democracy

Public Interest Trusts in Hungary

In: Accelerating the Future of Higher Education
Gergely Kováts
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In this chapter the author presents the institutional governance reforms in Hungary which commenced in 2019. By 2022 75% of public higher education institutions were transformed into private institutions owned and maintained by public interest trusts. As a result, the share of students studying in public institutions fell from 86% to 21%. The new boards, composed mainly of external members including several active politicians, have the right to decide on the university’s budget, structure, organisational and operational rules, internal governance system and define the powers of the senate. The main research question is how the new governance system fits in with European practice. The general conclusion is that, while there are some similarities with European patterns in certain elements, on some crucial issues, policy-makers have chosen atypical solutions. This raises the question of to what extent can the patterns of exercising power in illiberal democracies explain the peculiarities of the new governance model.

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