Vol. 9 No. 2 (2022)
Non-Monographic Section Articles

Governance models of Hungarian higher education: from Humboldtian to State-controlled model

Carla Liege Rodrigues Pimenta
ELTE-Eötvös Loránd University
Zoltán Rónay
ELTE-Eötvös Loránd University

Published 2022-12-01


  • history of higher education,
  • institutional autonomy,
  • academic freedom,
  • Hungary

How to Cite

Rodrigues Pimenta, C. L., & Rónay , Z. . (2022). Governance models of Hungarian higher education: from Humboldtian to State-controlled model. Rivista Di Storia dell’Educazione, 9(2), 109–119. https://doi.org/10.36253/rse-12335


The paper focuses on the higher education evolution in Hungary from the historical perspective regarding the governance models implemented and constructed in connection with the legal provision of decision-making power within universities, between various governance mechanisms (faculty, academic committees, senates, and boards) and administrative structures. We identified four governance models during the last hundred years. In the primary stage, we track down the Humboldt model, and the German influence played a role in the institutional development. The beginning of communist era represented a reform called “de-Humboldtization” and it was the beginning of the second phase in which the Hungarian higher education reform can be identified under the socialist influence, concentrating on the formation and organisation of the Soviet higher education institutions. The subsequent stage, the neo-Humboldtian type (1993-2012), can be identified as the regaining autonomy at the higher education underneath the shifting of communism regime to democracy and market economy. However, during this era, the government continuously tried to reform university governance, which touched every time the autonomy issue. Undoubtedly, many elements of these reforms caused a slow sink of the level of autonomy. Ten years ago, started the fourth period. First, the state-controlled model (chancellor and Consistory system) and now the pseudo-private model has been introduced. These last two models are linked with intensive decreasing institutional autonomy and academic freedom at Hungarian higher education and showed that the current legislation regulates the operational and financial issues of the institutions.


Berács, József, András Derényi, Péter Kádár-Csoboth, Gergely Kováts, István Polónyi, and József Temesi. 2017. “Magyar Felsőoktatás 2016. Stratégiai Helyzetértékelés.” Project Report. Budapest: NFKK.
Frambach, Hans A. 2015. “What Remains of Humboldt at Times of the Bologna Reform?” In The University According to Humboldt, 39–51. Springer.
Frost, Jetta, Fabian Hattke, and Markus Reihlen. 2016. “Multi-Level Governance in Universities: Strategy, Structure, Control.” In Multi-Level Governance in Universities, 1–15. Springer.
Garai, Imre. 2019. An Elite Teacher Training Institute: The History of Eötvös József Collegium 1895–1950. Budapest: ELTE Eötvös József Collegium.
Garai, Imre, and András Németh. 2017. “Disciplinary Changes in Science Education in Hungary in the Era of the Stalinist Dictatorship.” Pedagogika 67 (4).
———. 2018. “Construction of the National State and the Institutionalization Processes of the Modern Hungarian Secondary School Teacher Training System.” Espacio, Tiempo y Educación 5 (1): 219–32.
Halász, Gábor. 2003. “EDUCATIONAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL TRANSITION IN HUNGARY: Scope and Objectives.” In Change Forces in Post-Communist Eastern Europe, 77–95. Routledge.
Horlacher, Rebekka. 2016. “Horlacher, Rebekka, The Educated Subject and the German Concept of Bildung: A Comparative Cultural History. New York: Rutledge, 2016.”
Karran, Terence, Klaus Beiter, and Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua. 2017. “Measuring Academic Freedom in Europe: A Criterion Referenced Approach.” Policy Reviews in Higher Education 1 (2): 209–39.
Kelemen, E. 2009. “A Magyar Felsőoktatás Története a Dualizmus Korában.” Scientia Pannonica 2 (2).
Kováts, Gergely. 2015. “Recent Developments in the Autonomy and Governance of Higher Education Institutions in Hungary: The Introduction of the Chancellor System.” Central European Higher Education Cooperation Conference Proceedings. Corvinus University of Budapest Digital Press, 26–39.
Kozma, Tamás, István Polónyi, and Gabriella Pusztai. 2017. “Higher Education Systems and Institutions, Hungary.” In Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions, edited by Pedro Teixeira and Jung Cheol Shin, 1–9. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9553-1_370-1.
Mason, John W. 2014. The Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1867-1918. Routledge.
Németh, András, and Imre Garai. 2018. “The Developmental Phases of the Hungarian Educational Sciences in the 20th Century.” SODOBNA PEDAGOGIKA-JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY EDUCATIONAL STUDIES 69 (1): 162–79.
Östling, Johan. 2018. Humboldt and the Modern German University: An Intellectual History. Lund University Press.
Rónay, Zoltán. 2018. “Centralizations and Autonomies: The Delimitation of Education by The Hungarian Government.” Bulgarian Comparative Education Society 16.
———. 2019a. “Academic Freedom and Strong State Control: Two Samples to Illustrate the Consequences.” Bulgarian Comparative Education Society.
———. 2019b. “The Rise and Fall of Autonomy. The Last Thirty Years of Hungarian Higher Education.” Bulgarian Comparative Education Society.
Rónay, Zoltán, and Ewelina Niemczyk. 2021. “A Worldwide Pandemic and Academic Freedom: Challenges of the Changing Landscape.” In New Challenges to Education: Lessons from Around the World : BCES Conference Books, edited by N. Popov, C. Wolhuter, L. de Beer, G. Hilton, J. Ogunleye, E. Achinewhu-Nworgu, and Ewelina Niemczyk, 10–16. Sofia, Bulgaria: Bulgarian Comparative Education Society (BCES).
Rónay, Zoltán, and Ewelina K. Niemczyk. 2020. “Institutional and Individual Autonomy in Relation to Research Productivity in Hungarian and South African Higher Education Contexts.” Bulgarian Comparative Education Society.
Rozsnyai, Christina. 2003. “Quality Assurance before and after’Bologna’in the Central and Eastern Region of the European Higher Education Area with a Focus on Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland.” European Journal of Education 38 (3): 271–84.
Rüegg, Walter. 2010. A History of the University in Europe: Volume 4, Universities Since 1945. Vol. 4. Cambridge University Press.
Thom, Ilka, and Kirsten Weining. 2014. Mittendrin. Eine Universität Macht Geschichte: Eine Ausstellung Anlässlich Des 200-Jährigen Jubiläums Der Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.
Vasilache, Simona, József Temesi, and Alina Mihaela Dima. 2012. “HIGHER EDUCATION REFORMS IN EASTERN EUROPE. A HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN CASE STUDY.” Management & Marketing 7 (2).
Ziegler, Tamas Dezso. 2019. “Academic Freedom in the European Union-Why the Single European Market Is a Bad Reference Point.” Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law (MPIL) Research Paper, no. 2019–03.