22 SES 12 E, The Role of Churches in Higher Education in four Central and Eastern European Countries
Similarly to other countries in the region, in post-communist Romania confessional affiliation represents an important source of political legitimacy. As a consequence of the traditional link between ethnic and religious identity, after 1989 the dominant social expectation was that both the majority Orthodox Church and the minority churches should maintain their traditional legitimising function, in close connection with the protection and affirmation of the national identities to which they were primarily linked. One of the important aspects of this relationship is the role assumed by churches in higher education. In this regard, differences of perception between the majority Orthodox Church and the historical minority churches also originated from differences of tradition. While religious education has been perceived as a concern by all recognized churches, denominational institutions of education belong to a cultural tradition primarily linked to minority religious and ethnic communities. Religious minorities have had an important role in asserting ethnic and confessional pluralism in post-communist Romania. They have also been instrumental in building minority institutions in the fields of education, culture, and social services. Specifically, Hungarian historical denominations have provided the legal and institutional umbrella for the emerging private universities with Hungarian teaching language. Taking into account the dimensions and influencing factors briefly mentioned above, viewed from the perspective of their mutual interaction, this paper aims to offer a comprehensive outlook on the role of religion, religious identity and churches in shaping the higher education of Romania. On the basis of research information drawn from statistical analysis, secondary analysis and content analysis of relevant legal documents and policy statements, the paper is discussing Romania as a case study of post communist interactions between State, churches, higher education systems and national communities.
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