Tuition free European Universities
The other day a caller to Klubrádió, who was a college student in the seventies, claimed that KISZ, the communist youth organization, represented student interests better than HÖOK does nowadays. That is quite an indictment.
I have written about HÖOK (Hallgatói Önkormányzatok Országos Konferenciája) several times. This student association is built in a pyramid fashion. Each university has its own elected officials and each then sends delegates to a nationwide body. At the top is the president of HÖOK, David Nagy, a balding, graying thirty-five-year-old. I think it’s best not to ask what he is studying and how long he has been at it. These student organizations, at least in the past, received sizable sums of money that could be spent, for example, on awarding scholarships to fellow students. Granting such far-reaching powers to students borders on lunacy. I’ve heard stories that the money certain student associations received ended up being “invested” in stocks and real estate.
There is another problem with HÖOK. During the last twenty years it became an arm of Fidesz. Viktor Orbán used the student organization for political purposes. Fidesz first became popular among students when in 1998 the Orbán government abolished the tuition the Horn government had introduced as part of Lajos Bokros’s austerity program in early 1995. The second attempt to introduce tuition took place during the Gyurcsány government, but a Fidesz-sponsored referendum torpedoed that effort.
Don’t be a sheep! because they will shear you
Fidelitas campaign advertisement for the 2008 referendum
Then came 2010 and the Orbán government decided that tuition was necessary after all. I suspect there is more to this story than an effort to balance the budget. Orbán became enamored with the wacko idea that real value comes only from physical work. His government lowered the number of hours that students in trade schools had hitherto spent on literature, history, and languages. These people will be practically illiterate after finishing school at the age of 16 and will be let loose totally unprepared for any work requiring, for example, computer skills. He is also convinced that there are just too many people finishing college. He would prefer to go back to the Kádár regime’s practice of keeping the number of university graduates very low. By introducing high tuitition Orbán could kill two birds with one stone. Reduce the numbers and save money.