Neoliberalism and National Minority Universities: The Paradoxes of Hungarian Language Higher Education in Romania

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Irina CULIC, Babes-Bolyai University, Romania
My paper examines the formation of the Hungarian higher education 'complex' in Romania after the fall of the communist regime in 1989. It traces the political struggles for the establishment of a separate Hungarian state university, ended with the 1999 revised Law of Education. Multicultural universities became the default framework for minority language instruction, while minority institutions of higher education were relegated to private initiative. Using mixed methodology, the paper documents the restructuring of Hungarian higher education set off by the foundation of the private Hungarian university Sapientia, and shows how, in the context of demographic decline, neoliberalization of education, and divisive involvement of kin-state Hungary, it lost its political edge and ethno-national focus. It transformed into a weak, disjointed, and dependent 'complex' structured around two competing parts: the Hungarian line of study at the well-established multicultural public Babeș-Bolyai University, vastly autonomous but increasingly impaired and made dependent on the Romanian line, by the scarcity of students and falling state subsidies for higher education; and the new private university Sapientia, reliant on Hungarian government’s financial support, part of its policy regarding national kin abroad, asserting itself within the Romanian higher education regulatory framework. The analysis of how the Hungarian higher education 'complex' functions highlights the drastic impact of neoliberalization over minority education. The whole Romanian education system yielded gradually to market values and turned firmly towards privatization, commodification and financialization. This had a particularly adverse impact over the Hungarian 'complex', due to the structural asymmetry between majority and minority in terms of power, population, and institutions. This points to the fact that, in the field of higher education, a commitment to give equal public recognition to Hungarians requires a stronger financial support from the Romanian state and a different institutional arrangement.