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 24, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Corvinus University of Budapest

Region & Country:Europe | Hungary

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 24, 2023, Corvinus University of Budapest dismissed Dr. Zoltán Ádám from his position as associate professor of economics.

Earlier in 2023, Ádám refused to give an exam to a student who had not met the necessary requirements. The student’s family, members of which are stakeholders of the MOL Group, a Hungarian energy company, and the Corvinus University administration subsequently pressured Ádám to allow the student to take the exam. The president of Corvinus University’s board of trustees is also a MOL Group stakeholder.

In response to the pressure, Ádám lodged a complaint to the ethics committee. Initially, the committee established to investigate Ádám’s complaint condemned three university leaders, and the Corvinus University’s rector resigned. However, the Corvinus board of trustees later overturned the committee’s decision and dismissed Ádám. The university explained its decision by claiming that Ádám did not cooperate in the ethical investigation proceedings. Ádám refutes the allegations, although he acknowledges that his tone towards the Corvinus administration was less-than-cordial.

Several students held banners at a University Senate meeting on November 7 to protest against Ádám’s termination.

Dr. Adam’s termination coincides with concerns regarding the status of academic freedom in Hungary. Corvinus University is among the twenty-one universities that the government has transformed from public institutions to foundations. These foundations are allegedly controlled by government supporters, who dominate the boards of trustees.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of a professor in apparent relation for the exercise of the right to academic freedom in the classroom. University authorities have an obligation to refrain from retaliatory actions intended to punish, restrict, or chill the exercise of academic freedom and should employ transparent, fair processes when engaging in disciplinary actions. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, dismissals stemming from such activity undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.