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Following the general elections Hungary has a new conservative ”superminister” responsible for education. Mr. Miklós Rethelyi, officially Minister for National Resources, will also be in charge of health, social, cultural and sports affairs. At the age of 71 he is considered to be the most experienced in the new cabinet. Given that Mr. Rethelyi’s time will be divided among his various responsibilities, Ms. Rozsa Hoffmann, a Christian Democrat with a background in secondary and higher education, will take up the position of junior minister (state secretary) for education.
A medical doctor with a long career in research, Mr. Rethelyi became the first freely chosen rector of the Hungarian SOTE University of Medicine in 1991. He also has substantial international experience, having worked in France, the United States as well as in the Ukraine. The new Prime Minister expects from him no less than the salvation of the Hungarian health system, the reinforcement of social security and the creation of equal opportunities in higher education as well as job opportunities in the labour market. In its election programme, the new government states that for 50% of the degrees earned in Hungarian higher education there is no corresponding need for this labour on the market. Thus, it is imperative that applicants receive more information before applying to university. Reflecting on this, Mr. Rethelyi will place more emphasis on vocational training, which may impact higher education in the longer run. From university student organisations there will be a fierce push to decrease tuition, which currently matches up with the new government’s earlier pledge to scrap tuition fees.
With a 2/3 majority in the Hungarian Parliament Mr. Rethelyi has unprecedented opportunities to bring change. It is yet to be seen, of course, how more can be done with less, in new and different ways, and barring public support, all while stepping up to the objectives of Europe 2020. What is clear is that experience will need to be complemented with a great deal of innovation to strengthen higher education in Hungary.