Thousands protest in Hungary demanding academic freedom for top arts university

“For a university to be able to operate autonomously is the foundation of democracy,” said Marta Barbarics, who attended the rally.

September 07, 2020 07:30 am | Updated 07:30 am IST - BUDAPEST

Students of the University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) and their sympathizers form a human chain in protest against changes to the way the university is governed in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.

Students of the University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) and their sympathizers form a human chain in protest against changes to the way the university is governed in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.

Several thousand people protested on Sunday for the independence of Hungary's University of Theatre and Film Arts following the imposition of a government-appointed board, which they say will undermine its autonomy.

The management of the school, which nurtured many of Hungary's most famous directors and film makers, resigned on Monday in protest over the changes, which have also prompted several top theatre directors to quit their teaching roles.

Attendants of the rally formed a chain in the streets of central Budapest before the crowd gathered at a main square outside Parliament, demanding autonomy for the school and freedom for artistic endeavour and education.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's supporters have long argued that it was time for a shift in culture towards conservative values to end what they call the domination of the arts in Hungary by liberals and left-wingers.

Students of the University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) and their sympathizers form a human chain in protest against changes to the way the university is governed in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.

Students of the University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE) and their sympathizers form a human chain in protest against changes to the way the university is governed in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.

“For a university to be able to operate autonomously is the foundation of democracy,” said Marta Barbarics, who attended the rally. “If a university cannot teach in a way as its citizens deem appropriate then there are serious problems and the leadership of a university does not quit for no reason.”

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