Sometimes erroneously referred to as China’s first overseas university campus (Xiamen University has a campus in Malaysia), the MoU for the project was first signed in December 2019 by Hungary’s innovation and technology minister László Palkovics and Xu Ningsheng, the president of Fudan University.

Located in the capital Budapest, the university will take in up to 6,000 students and offer courses in economics, medicine, engineering sciences and international relations.

“At first it might seem surprising, but when we look at the progress that has been made by top Chinese universities we see that it is remarkable. So it seems natural that there are attempts to fully grasp financial opportunities in the sector. Higher education is a huge and lucrative business,” said Paweł Paszak of the Poland-based think tank Warsaw Institute.

“The decision to establish a campus in Hungary is in many regards surprising given that the plans say about a goal of educating up to 5,000-6,000 students. If this plan succeeds, Fudan University will become one of the major universities in Hungary.”

“If this plan succeeds, Fudan University will become one of the major universities in Hungary”

According to Paszak, Hungary enjoys a “very good political relationship with China which goes against the tide”.

In addition to hosting several Confucius Institutes, Hungary is also home to Huawei’s European supply centre, is the largest recipient of Chinese foreign direct investment in the Visegrad Group, and is involved in several Belt and Road projects, including a planned railway line from Budapest to Belgrade, the contract details of which were classified by the government last year.

“The Hungarian side hopes that establishing new contacts will bring know-how to higher education and which would allow to improve the quality and internationalisation of the education process,” continued Paszak.

“[But] all sorts of cooperation, including education, come with some strings attached.

“Undoubtedly, establishing overseas campuses by Chinese universities is a way of building Chinese soft power abroad,” he added, noting risks in attempts to influence how China and the CCP are portrayed.

According to local media, the Hungarian government will provide up to €2.3m to purchase land and property for the university.

However Hungary has not been so open to other foreign education institutes. After attempting to prevent the George Soros-backed Central European University from operating in the country, last year the European Court of Justice ruled against it, although CEU is now mostly operating from Austria.

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