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A Signal of Support – Autumn Plenary Session at CEU in Budapest



At the end of October, Die Junge Akademie held its Autumn Plenary Session at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. Only one day before, the CEU announced its move to Vienna.

In April 2017 Die Junge Akademie decided to hold its 2018 Autumn Plenary Session at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest – a small but strong signal of solidarity. This decision arose in response to a law proposed by the Hungarian government that threatened to greatly restrict academic freedom in Hungary in general and specifically challenged CEU’s legitimacy (press release of Die Junge Akademie from 30.03.2017). The 2018 Autumn Plenary Session took place at the end of October upon the invitation of Jan Hennings, Associate Professor in the Department of History at CEU and member of the Die Junge Akademie. Alumnus Carsten Schneider, Associate Professor in political science at CEU, offered the visiting members of Die Junge Akademie a tour of the university. The date for the Autumn Plenary Session, which had been decided during the summer of 2017, could not have been more aptly chosen. Precisely one day before the start of the plenary session, the leadership of CEU announced that CEU was to move to Vienna due to the fact that the agreement between the Hungarian government and the university was negotiated successfully, yet never signed by the Prime Minister. From September 2019, students intending to begin their studies at CEU will only be able to matriculate in Vienna. With every year, the campus in Budapest will become emptier. The decision to hold the plenary session at CEU as a signal of support was, and still is, clearly more necessary than ever before.

The opening speech of the plenary session was given on 26 October 2018 by Michael Ignatieff, Rector of CEU, against the backdrop of the current developments. In his speech, he welcomed the visiting members of Die Junge Akademie and thanked them for their support. In his conversation with the members, Ignatieff made unmistakably clear the changes currently underway in Hungary, both in the world of academia as well as in many other aspects of society.

These changes are also having a great impact on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which has come under intense political pressure. In light of these events, Die Junge Akademie organized a dinner on the first evening of the plenary session with the President of the Hungarian Academy, who spoke with members of Die Junge Akademie about the academic landscape in Hungary. Die Junge Akademie will continue to keep a close eye on developments in Hungary over the coming months and years.

With regard to the content of the plenary session, the members dealt with topics such as ‘The system of incentives in German academia’. The occasion also witnessed the founding of a new research group on ‘Cultures of Debates’. After the successful publication in mid-October of Die Junge Akademie Magazine on the topic of academic freedom, a new editorial team was formed during the plenary session to coordinate the publication of the next issue on a new topic. In addition to the discussions on the workings of Die Junge Akademie, members also had the opportunity to provide insight into their own research questions during a poster session. No plenary session would be complete without a presentation by a member of Die Junge Akademie, and on this occasion, Board member Bernadett Weinzierl, astrophysicist at the University of Vienna, reported on her work with aerosols.

Overall, the three days of the plenary session had a very positive outcome. The decision to hold the Autumn Plenary Session at CEU was an important signal of support that underscored Die Junge Akademie’s engagement with the issue of academic freedom. The session also made clear once again how important direct exchanges are for interdisciplinary work. Planning for the next plenary session is already underway: The Spring Plenary Session will be held at the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in Halle, where Die Junge Akademie will be hosted by one of its sponsoring academies.

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