Throughout the decades of post-communist transition, higher education in the languages of national minorities – and especially the argument for establishing a Hungarian language state university – have been among the most controversial issues of the Romanian political agenda. The particular importance assigned to the legal and institutional provisions regulating minority higher education in Romania can be explained by the specific interplay of national minority issues in a historically multicultural Cental–East European region, combined with the characteristics of the post-communist transformation of Romanian higher education system, including its internationalization and europeanization (Belenyi et. al. 2012).
The negative memory of past homogenisation policies, shared by all the national minorities, concerning especially the last years of communist dictatorship, when they indeed had to face a not very remote prospect of complete annihilation as separate ethno-cultural entities, led to a rapid political mobilisation of minority communities (Schopflin and Poulton 1990). In this context, the idea of a “Hungarian University” became a highly charged concept both ideologically and politically, gaining an immense symbolic value and mobilisation power for members and opinion leaders of the Hungarian minority. By contrast, to many members of the Romanian majority and political elite, the demand for establishing a separate minority university provoked an acute perception of insecurity and negative reactions.
In such unfavorable context, while Hungarian minority members aspiring to enter higher education institutions were to a lesser extent able to take advantage of the large increase of the number of available places in the state owned sector compared to their Romanian counterparts, a somewhat larger space for new opportunities opened up in the field of the confessional and/or church constituted private educational sector. Churches linked to Hungarian minority have had an important role in asserting ethnic and confessional pluralism (Flora & Szilagyi 2008). After it became obvious that the political conditions would not allow for the recognition of a Hungarian language state university in the foreseeable future, in 2000 the Hungarian historical denominations decided to provide the legal and institutional umbrella to the new private universities with Hungarian teaching language, which were set up with the financial and political support of the Government of Hungary (Flora & Szilagyi 2005).
These developments are the more important, as they took place in a national and international context not necessarily favoring cultural and educational pluralism. Rather surprisingly, taking into account the rich multicultural and pluralistic tradition of European education, the reference to the minority cultural and educational needs is almost completely absent from the dominant “Bologna” discourse at the European level, and the implicit globalizing and homogenizing message transmitted in this way has its corresponding effects at national level as well (Szolar 2010). It is worth to mention in this respect that according to information provided by European University Association, less than 25% of European higher education institutions have introduced specific policies concerning minority ethnic groups or immigrants (Sursock and Smidt 2010, p. 70).
In such circumstances, the autonomus existence and legitimacy of small-size institutions with specifically defined ethno-cultural and ethno-linguistic mission might be questioned by a series of pressures originating from the expectations of the ongoing reform of higher education and the consequences of its expansion and internationalisation (Sursock and Smidt 2010, p. 33).
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 insitutional aspects of Hungarian minority higher education of Romania.
Belényi, E - Flóra G.& Szolár É (2012) Minority Higher Education in Romania: a Contextual Analysis. In Gabriella Pusztai & Adrian Hatos (Eds.) Higher Education for Regional Social Cohesion. Hungarian Educational Research Journal (HERJ) Special Issues, 1. 109–133. Budapest (Hungary): HERA. Brubaker, R. (1995). National minorities, nationalizing states, and external national homelands in the new Europe. Daedalus, 107-132. Flora G - Szilagyi G. (2005) Church, Identity, Politics: Ecclesiastical Functions and Expectations Toward Churches in Post-1989 Romania In: Victor Roudometof, Alexander Agadjanian, and Jerry Pankhurst (eds.) Eastern Orthodoxy in a Global Age: Tradition Faces the 21st Century. Alta Mira Press, 2005, 109-143. Flóra G.- Szilágyi G. (2008) Religious Education and Cultural Pluralism in Romania In: Gabriella Pusztai (ed.) Education and Church in Central and Eastern Europe at First Glance. Center for Higher Education Research and Development, University of Debrecen, 2008, 159-172. Schöpflin, G. - Poulton H. (1990) Romania's Ethnic Hungarians. London: Minority Rights Group Publication Sursock, A. and Smidt, H. (2010) Trends 2010. A decade of change in European Higher Education. European University Association, Brussels, 2010. http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/2010_conference/documents/EUA_Trends_2010.pdf Retrieved 15.11.2012 Szolar E. (2010) New Opportunities and Old Challenges: Romanian Denominational Higher Education in the Bologna Process. Christian Higher Education, v9 n2 (20100317): 124-150.
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