SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: October 01, 2018

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Region & Country:Europe | Hungary

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 1, 2018, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences reportedly cancelled two academic presentations that were scheduled to be held at the Hungarian Science Festival in November 2018, on the grounds that they would involve unacceptable political content.

The Hungarian Science Festival is being organised by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (the Academy) in November 2018 to showcase academic research by Hungarian scholars to the general public.  On October 1, 2018, Dr. Beatá Mária Barnabás, the Deputy Secretary General of the Academy, reportedly announced her decision to cancel the two proposed lectures, by Dr. Balász Vedres and Orsolya Vásárhelyi, scholars from the Central European University (CEU). The first lecture was titled, “The Role and Success of Men and Women in Computer Science, From the Perspective of Big Data.” It would have examined gender differentials in employment in computing. Dr. Barnabás’s reported rationale for cancelling the presentation was that it involved issues related to gender. The second proposed presentation was titled “The Legal Side of Social Media.” It was reportedly cancelled because of its “political angles.”

The decision to reject the presentation follows an August 10, 2018 government decree that aims to eliminate gender studies at Hungarian universities by defunding and refusing to accredit degrees in that subject by September 2019. As of this report, only two universities, Eötvös Loránd University and CEU, offer degree programs in gender studies. Sources report that the Academy’s decision to reject the presentations was made in response to a fear that it would lose public funding.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent exclusion from a conference of academic content on political grounds. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from imposing political pressure upon academic institutions – including through explicit or implicit threats of defunding, or through other forms of retaliation based on academic content or conduct. Academic institutions likewise have an obligation to take available measures to protect academic freedom and related values, including access and autonomy. Actions designed to exclude academic content or conduct on political grounds erodes academic freedom, limits university autonomy, and harms democratic society generally.