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Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, addressed the participants of the conference “A hallgatói mobiltás stratégiai jelenősége a felsőoktatás nemzetközivé válásában,” hosted jointly by the University of Debrecen and Magyar Rektori Konferencia [Hungarian Rectors’ Conference], in a video message sent on November 17th to the University of Debrecen. The Commissioner’s message emphasized the important role of Erasmus, the currently 30-year-old higher education exchange program, in international student mobility.
Zoltán Szilvássy, Rector of the University of Debrecen, noted that student mobility in Europe could look back on a history of around a thousand years; however, he added that we would also need to take into consideration possibilities outside of Europe in the future.
“The pool of strategic partners of our university includes Russia, China, and India, from where we get more and more students coming to Debrecen, which means that these countries play an important part in the course of internationalizing higher education,” said Zoltán Szilvássy, who also underlined the significance of the fact that, with its five thousand plus international students, our university would indeed continue to be a market leader in our immediate region.
Economist Barnabás Kovács, Chief Consul of Hungary in Barcelona and the head of a joint research project on cross-border student mobility, noted the long-standing traditions of the city of Debrecen in this respect and highlighted the point that Debrecen’s Református Kollégium [Reformed College] could boast of a 500-year-old experience in arranging means of international exposure for its students, for which reason the organizers could not have found a more appropriate location for the conference than Debrecen.
The institutional student mobility strategy was presented by Chancellor Zoltán Bács. So far, the University of Debrecen has signed 650 bilateral mobility agreements with 410 partner institutions in 45 different countries, while the current number of its Erasmus agreements in effect exceeds 600. Every year, approximately 250 students from Debrecen spend some time at these partner institutions, while the number of incoming students is well over 200. The Chancellor gave a detailed account of the program offer available at the university on leisure and community-building activities, with special emphasis on cultural and sports-related possibilities provided for the international student body, including American football and baseball practice and games.
In addition to as many as 54 different majors instructed in English, we can also ensure a higher quality student life here that comprises top-notch living conditions and an excellent lifestyle for our students,” said Zoltán Bács.
Katalin Novák, Emberi Erőforrások Minisztériuma (Emmi) család és ifjúságügyért felelős államtitkára [State Secretary for Family and Youth Affairs of the Ministry of Human Resources], said that the overall objective in the future would be to ensure that more and more self-conscious young Hungarians with a sound and competitive knowledge base could enter the labor market, for which they would need to receive support to acquire international experience and fluency in foreign languages.
“The government of Hungary have decided to refund the cost of new language examinations taken as of January 1, 2018, to every young person under 35 years of age, even if they already have one or several certificates,” said Katalin Novák. The State Secretary also added that the objective of the maximum HUF 34500 amount of support was to make sure that young people should not be content with just one or two certificates of language examination but should aim at learning several more languages, so that they would have a better chance of finding a good job for themselves.
Ms. Novák also underlined that the Hungarian government would continue to support the mobility of young people through providing an annual amount of more than 14 billion Hungarian forints from EU and Hungarian funds, as a consequence of which as many as 18 thousand of them would have a chance to participate in various international mobility programs.
“Currently, the proportion of international students enrolled in Hungarian institutions of higher education for at least 3 months is 11 percent of the total student body. Our aim to increase this figure to reach 20 percent by the year 2023,” said the State Secretary.
At the conference hosted jointly by the University of Debrecen and Magyar Rektori Konferencia, the participants could also find out about the proceedings of the joint research project, which gave them an insight into how the number of international students in Hungarian institutions of higher education had changed and developed through the years, and how and in what ways these students were motivated in the first place when they considered the variety of factors influencing the process of choosing a country and an institution.