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Jan 30, 2024

Hungary ratifies the 2019 Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education

On 14 December 2023, Hungary deposited with the Director-General its instrument of ratification of the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education (Paris, 25 November 2019).

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Jun 15, 2023

Tension in the protests for the improvement of Education in Hungary

When the demonstrators tried to dismantle a fence protecting the Prime Minister, the police used tear gas on the students, which was surprising because the Hungarian police have been very cautious about demonstrations since Fidesz came to power.

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Aug 9, 2022

In Hungary, graduation exams begins

This year's high school graduation exam period begins with the written Hungarian language and literature, during which approximately 114,700 students are expected to take the high school graduation exam at 1,162 locations, the Education Office announced.

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Mar 29, 2022

Many European Universities Are Helping Ukrainian Students – Here’s How

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which caused about 780 fatalities for less than 30 days, about 3.1 million people were forced to flee their home country, leave their loved ones and give up jobs and studies to seek international protection in European countries.

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The Republic of Hungary, roughly the size of Indiana, is located in Central Europe. The estimated population is 10,032,375 and is made up of the following ethnic groups: Hungarian, 89.9%; Roma, 4%; German, 2.6%; Serb, 2%; Slovak, .8%; and Romanian, .7%.

The literacy rate in Hungary is 99.4 percent. Hungarian, spoken by 98.2% of the population, is the official language of Hungary. It is interesting to note that Hungarian belongs to the linguistic group of the Ural-Altaic family of languages including Estonian, Finnish, Kazakh, Mongolian, Turkish and Uzbek. This makes Hungary unique since it is surrounded by countries that speak languages from vastly different linguistic families.

Some of the more significant events in the recent history of Hungary occurred due to external influences. After World War I Hungary lost over two-thirds of its land to surrounding areas. The Hungarian government sided with Hitler in World War II in an effort to regain some of this lost territory. Despite this alliance, the country was occupied by German forces in 1944. After liberation in 1945 and restoration of the original Hungarian borders in 1947, free elections resulted in a Soviet constitution for the country. In 1956 a revolution broke out that was swiftly crushed by Soviet troops. Shortly afterwards, Imre Nagy, leader of the 1956 revolutionary government, was executed and a strict Soviet dictatorship was restored.

Increasing unrest among the citizens of Hungary led to the breakdown of the Soviet regime. In 1989 Hungary was renamed the Republic of Hungary and in 1990 free elections were held. In 1999 Hungary became a member of NATO and more recently, in 2004, Hungary became an official member of the European Union.


When the transition to a market economy began, the educational system no longer needed to dictate and control the number of students educated in specific areas of study, according to years of planned economies. Demand for certain programs (in economics and business-related areas) increased, while the number of students choosing highly-specialized technical programs decreased. Compulsory Soviet political and theoretical courses were no longer part of the curricula. More recently the country has shifted administrative control so that local governments have more autonomy in organization and budget determination, particularly in pre-primary, primary and secondary education, though the Emberi Erőforrások Minisztériuma (EMMI) is responsible for the entire Hungarian education system and the Ministry for National Economy oversees vocational and adult training. Changes from the previous Soviet system of education have resulted in challenges for the Hungarian educational system.

The academic year typically runs from September to June. Ten years of education is compulsory and vocational studies are not available for students prior to completion of grade ten (all students are to receive equal, fundamental education up to that point). Compulsory education is free, although private-sector schools may charge fees.

Primary and Secondary Education

The current structure of education is in two stages of four years for both primary and lower secondary school. Most children complete both of these stages at age fourteen. There are different types of secondary schools from the fifth grade on, including an upper secondary general track with a four-year option, a six-year option, or a track with an eight-year option; there are also upper secondary vocational schools as well as vocational schools. Students in vocational schools are provided with an option to add a two-year course to prepare for the secondary leaving exam, though all schools are supposed to adequately prepare students for the exam.

Vocational schools follow a dual model that provides work-based learning, including a practical component with local companies using apprenticeship contracts. They have shifted away from traditional secondary education topics and towards practical training, to reduce the time of completion to three years. Some have argued that the curriculum limits future opportunities for these students, in both alternative career options or in further educational opportunities.

There are certain types of vocational training schools that do not lead to the maturity certificate. These programs can vary in length from one to four years. All vocational programs, offered at both general vocational secondary schools and vocational training schools, award a vocational qualifying certificate upon program completion.

Post-Secondary Education

Emberi Erőforrások Minisztériuma (EMMI) is responsible for post-secondary education, plus determining the number of state-funded positions at all public/private institutions as well as the number for the various disciplines. With advice from the Magyar Rektori Konferencia, the EMMI determines matters related to program structure, credit systems, as well as learning outcomes. All higher education institutions in Hungary must be accredited by the Magyar Felsőoktatási Akkreditációs Bizottság; without this accreditation, the institutions are not legally permitted to provide degrees. Additional regulations imposed in coordination with the Higher Education Strategy of 2014 installed a chancellor to oversee rectors in public institutions, plus aids in making strategic and finiancial decisions for the schools. Also, legislation requires any foreign institution operating in Hungary to have a physical location in their home country in addition to their presence in Hungary.

Admission to post-secondary education programs is competitive and based on entrance scores (established by the government). Required entrance scores for admission to specific programs are calculated by ranking each applicant for that degree program according to entrance requirements. There are a limited number of spots available for various programs.

Accurate evaluation of Hungarian credentials will require a knowledge of the pre-Bologna system as well as the newer system, since documents from both systems will be submitted from students for the foreseeable future.


The first stage of post-secondary education was offered at many different types of public and private institutions. It is always advisable to check institutional web sites to verify program lengths. The duration of programs offered at colleges was three to four years. Vocational programs at the post-secondary level were usually offered at colleges (sometimes at universities) after completion of two years of study in a specific area. Programs that were offered at universities were four to five years in length with the exception of medical programs, which were six years in length.

Various credential types have been issued for the postgraduate (second stage) higher education programs. Post-university further specialization programs were one to three years in length. Master and doctoral programs were offered through universities. Candidate of science or doctor of science (third stage) programs were administered by the Committee of Scientific Qualifications of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences rather than a university.

Until 2006 when the new post-secondary structure went into effect as a result of the Bologna Process, higher education in Hungary consisted of the Oklevel Diploma awarded by either főiskola or by egyetemi. These varied in length from 3-4 years at főiskola to 4-5 years at egyetemi (or even 6 years in university medical programs).


The new Bologna-compliant structure, which was introduced in 2006, consists of a three-cycle degree structure:

Only research universities award the doktori fokozat. Both the foiskola and the title="universities">egyetimi are allowed to award the bachelor and master degrees.

It is important to note that alongside the Bologna-compliant degree cycles, above, egyetimi still offer one cycle or single tier longer programs leading to the Mesterkepzes/Mesterfokozat after 5 or 6 years of study in Veterinary Medicine, Architecture, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Law and Medicine.

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Robert Watkins

Special Assistant to the Director, University of Texas at Austin


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