Families and schools have been among the main winners over the past few years
01. 09. 2017.
In Pécs on Friday, at a ceremony held on the Day of Hungarian Higher Education – which this year coincides with the 650th anniversary of the foundation of the University of Pécs – Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that never have so many children had access to free textbooks and meals as they will this year. He added that families and schools have been among the main winners over the past few years.

The Prime Minister also said that next year the Cabinet will spend HUF 552 billion more on education than was spent in 2010, “as befits a medium-sized European state”. He added that the Government has launched a new schools development programme, as part of which projects will be launched in more than five hundred institutions.

Mr. Orbán said that in the upcoming term more than 250,000 students will be in higher education, and the future of young Hungarians is the most burning issue of the age. He stated that the future chosen by students for themselves will also be the future of Hungary and Europe.

Photo: Gergely Botár

He recalled that “Our generation, seeking to break free of communism” uncompromisingly aspired to freedom, national independence and the reunification of Europe; he stressed, however, that recently the world has changed a great deal, and students today must find new paths for themselves.

The Prime Minister said that if Europe’s spiritual, economic, political and military strength is allowed to diminish, if the demographic decline continues, and if the pressure of migration intensifies, Europe will disappear. He stated that if this were to happen, today’s young people would live in a different world “about which we now know nothing”.

Europe has entered the eleventh hour, Mr. Orbán stated, adding that we have seen the emergence of intellectual and political trends and leaders whose “new prophecy holds that there is longer any point in resisting”.

Photo: Gergely Botár

The Prime Minister contrasted this with young people who represent the future of Hungary, who have the courage to go against the flow, who choose family, the community and the nation over multiculturalism and “political schools of thought which force everything into one homogeneous mass”.

At the same time, Mr. Orbán said, the future of the continent is represented by those Central European countries which “have become neither German, nor Turkish, and which even the insatiable Soviet appetite – eager to devour everything – failed to digest”.

Speaking about the HUF 24 billion development of the University of Pécs which forms part of the Modern Cities Programme, Mr. Orbán said that, with more than twenty thousand students, some 1,500 teaching staff and a budget of around HUF 56 billion, the University meets an important requirement of higher education: that, in addition to useful knowledge, it should provide its students with a firm moral stance and an independent worldview.

He added that in January pay rises for higher education staff reached a second stage, and this will continue next year, resulting in an overall pay rise between 2016 and 2018 of 27 per cent. He mentioned the plan for there to be twenty thousand more researchers in training by 2020 than there are today.

Photo: Gergely Botár

In closing, the Prime Minister encouraged staff at higher education institutions to raise a courageous, well-equipped and Hungarian generation […] “which will be strong enough to choose and build a future which is worthy of them and their past”.

In his speech opening the new semester, József Bódis, Rector of the University of Pécs, stressed that the demand for quality has always been present in the world of universities. What has changed, he said, is the quantity of information and the method by which it is shared. When renewing higher education, he added, the highest priority must be quality, and it is necessary to invest in methodology and human resources.

“We believe in science, in education; without this, there would be no societal development”, he pointed out.

He stated that with ten faculties, the Szentágothai Research Centre and its clinical unit, and twenty thousand students – including four thousand foreign students – the University of Pécs is a major player in higher education, domestically and internationally. The future of the University of Pécs is determined by the development plan within the Modern Cities Programme, for which the Government has provided funding of HUF 24 billion. He stated that this programme must be implemented in full.

Photo: Gergely Botár

In his welcome speech, Mayor of Pécs Zsolt Páva (Fidesz-KDNP) praised the effective cooperation between the University and the City. He said that the University of Pécs is about to undergo a major development, and Pécs is the only city where a university has been granted separate funding within the Modern Cities Programme.

To mark the anniversary, the University of Pécs received a message of greeting from Pope Francis, whose words were delivered by Apostolic Nuncio Alberto Bottari de Castello. The head of the Roman Catholic Church encouraged the people of Pécs to look upon the anniversary as a good opportunity to strengthen dialogue between the fields of faith and intellectual inquiry.

On the Day of Hungarian Higher Education, neuroscientist György Buzsáki – who in 2011 was awarded the Brain Prize, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in his line of research – was awarded an honorary doctorate.

The Pécs Diocese of the Hungarian Catholic Church was awarded the University’s King Louis the Great Prize for the role it played in the establishment of the University. Bishop of Pécs György Udvardy received the award on behalf of the Church.

Photo: Gergely Botár

From 2017 onwards, 1 September is the Day of Hungarian Higher Education – in line with a parliamentary vote on 30 March 2016. This vote saw the same day designated as the commemorative day of the foundation of the University of Pécs, in recognition of the essential role played in higher education by Hungary’s first university, which was founded 650 years ago this year.