Universities in Hungary are one of the oldest in Europe: their appearance dates back to the very beginning of the Renaissance — the 14th century. And today's modern system of higher education, which consists of universities and colleges, was formed in the 20th century[1]. A major step in the modernization of education was the introduction of the Bologna process in 1999[2]. Thanks to this system, Hungarian diplomas are recognized in the EU and in many other countries.

The Hungarian government is actively developing education in the country: increasing funding for scholarships[3], increasing the number of English-language programs[4], developing programs to support entrepreneurship in universities[5]. Today, Hungarian universities are becoming more popular among applicants: in less than 20 years, the total number of students in the country has increased 4 times, and the number of students from abroad is increasing every year. As of 2017, 9% of all Hungarian students were foreigners, and 5% were citizens of other EU countries[4].

List of universities in Hungary

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Advantages of universities in Hungary

  • Affordability. The academic year in Hungarian university costs about 4,284 USD, which is much cheaper than in most European universities. In addition, the government and universities themselves provide students with grants and discounts on tuition and scholarships. Thus, students can study and live in the country for free, receiving a scholarship in the amount of 139-161 USD each month.
  • Convenient admission process. To enter a Hungarian university, an applicant does not need to visit the country: almost all universities accept documents online. Passing entrance exams most often also happens via the Internet. This simplifies the admission process and also saves the time and money of the applicant.
  • Ability to travel through Europe. A Hungarian study visa allows students to travel to Schengen countries without restrictions. And the best part is the price of travel. Flights from Budapest to European capitals — Paris, Berlin or Milan — can be as low as 54 USD. A trip by bus or train will cost even cheaper. Hungary is a wonderful country for those who want to not only get an education abroad but also witness the most impressive cities in Europe with their own eyes.

Disadvantages of universities in Hungary

  • Low ratings of universities. None of the Hungarian universities place higher than 500th in the world QS ranking. This is largely due to the low level of research: in Hungary, there are few scientific centers at universities and the frequency of citation of articles by Hungarian scholars is rather low. This situation has arisen due to the political crisis and the weak economy of the country in the late XX — early XXI century. However, now the scientific infrastructure in Hungary is developing steadily. This is evidenced by the position of Hungarian universities in regional lists: in the QS EECA University Rankings (universities from emerging Europe and Central Asia), 5 Hungarian universities are in the top 50: Eotvos Lorand University, University of Szeged, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, University of Debrecen and Corvinus University.
  • Conservative approach. Education in Hungary is based on the frontal method — the material is presented linearly from the teacher to the audience without the involvement of students in individual or group work[6]. Due to this outdated approach, students complain that education focuses only on theory. They are not confident in their practical skills, as they do not gain experience in applying their knowledge in the work environment[7].
  • Lack of interdisciplinary programs. At Hungarian universities, there is a noticeable lack of interdisciplinarity programs and cooperation between departments and faculties[8]. This omission affects the effectiveness of the educational process. Indeed, thanks to interdisciplinary programs, students delve into the topic of study, develop critical thinking, synthesize ideas based on different views and approaches, and are ready to solve current world problems.
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Requirements for admission to Hungarian universities

ProgramAgeDurationMin. costAvg. costMin. language proficiencyExams
Foundation16+1-2 sem3,641 USD5,355 USDB2IELTS 5.5
Bachelor's18+3-4 years3,213 USD8,032 USDB2IELTS 5.5
MBA20+1-2 years5,355 USD16,065 USDC1IELTS 6.5
Master's20 +2 years3,213 USD9,639 USDC1IELTS 6.5
Doctoral20+4-6 years2,142 USD13,923 USDC1IELTS 6.5

Students can enter Hungarian universities after graduating from school or bachelor’s/master’s studies. Training is conducted in Hungarian, English, French, and German. Foreigners study mainly in English: universities have a large selection of English-language programs. Those who wish to learn Hungarian can attend the language courses, but this will require another year or so, as the language is complex and rare.

To enroll, an applicant needs to confirm the knowledge of English with a certificate of international exams IELTS or TOEFL. It is also necessary to prepare your documents for submission: a certificate of graduation, letters of recommendation and motivation, and other documents required by the chosen program. Entry requirements depend on the institution, degree, and specialty. Some universities conduct interviews and entrance exams. The whole process involves application and exam fees.

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Top universities of Hungary

  • University of Szeged (Szegedi Tudományegyetem) opened its doors to students in 1921. Today University of Szeged is one of the greenest universities in the world[9]. It is actively involved in environmental projects and research, the infrastructure runs on solar panels, and most teachers and students travel by bicycle. Szeged University is a multidisciplinary educational institution. Among the many disciplines taught at the university, the leading positions are occupied by pharmaceuticals and medicine.
  • Eötvös Loránd University (Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem, ELTE). Eötvös Loránd University was named after the famous Hungarian physicist, once a student and teacher at ELTE. Many Nobel Prize winners also worked here: György de Hevishi, Albert Saint-György, György von Békésci, and others. The university was founded in 1635 and after two centuries has become the center of modern education, where natural sciences and humanities are taught. The best areas to study are mathematics and physics.
  • Debreceni University (Debreceni Egyetem) is one of the most popular universities among foreigners: almost 4,000 students from more than 80 countries study here. Most educational programs are conducted entirely in English. The most popular fields are medicine and dentistry.
  • Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem, BME) was founded at the beginning of the XVII century. It is one of the oldest technical universities in Europe. Many BME graduates became recognized architects, engineers, and inventors. The famous Hungarian architect Bela Light studied here, who built the music hall in Budapest in 1909. In addition to him, the puzzle maker Erno Rubik graduated from the university. Today, the most popular programs are in mathematics and technology.
  • University of Pecs (Pécsi Tudományegyetem) was founded in 1912. The university is famous primarily for its medical faculty. Today it competes with the University of Debrecen for the title of the country's most international university. Programs in English and German coupled with grants make Pecs University an attractive place for many foreigners.

Types of educational institutions in Hungary

There are two types of higher education institutions in Hungary:

  • University (egyetem). Universities provide training in all kinds of degrees: bachelor's, master's, doctoral. At least half of the teaching and research staff are holders of a PhD. Universities offer subjects and at least 3 faculties in foreign languages.
  • College (főiskola). At least 1/3 of the teaching and research staff must have a doctorate degree. Colleges provide bachelor’s, master’s, or integrated graduate programs, higher professional education and postgraduate training of specialists[10].

Universities are large organizations with multiple campuses, while colleges are small institutions.

There are also branches of foreign higher education institutions in Hungary. For example, Central European University — accredited in the USA and Austria, McDaniel College — the European campus of McDaniel College of Maryland, International Business School — a private college accredited in the UK and the USA, issuing diplomas of Buckingham University.

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Colleges of Hungary

Legally, there are no differences between universities and colleges. However, unlike universities, colleges are oriented towards a more practical education, since they mainly offer bachelor’s and short professional programs, as well as conduct applied research[10]. Such studies are aimed at solving specific problems, so their results are of immediate practical importance. Colleges may also function as faculties of other universities.

College programs last three or four years and graduates receive a college diploma foiskolai oklevel. This is the first level of higher education, which is equivalent to the level of a bachelor. Most colleges in Hungary are privately owned or sponsored by churches. These include Wekerle Sándor Business College, John Wesley Theological College Budapest, Tomori Pál College, Edutus College.

Public and private universities

Universities in Hungary, unlike colleges, focus on theoretical education. They issue degrees and offer doctoral programs. In Hungarian universities, there are more master's programs than in colleges. They conduct basic research, which is also known as pure research. It is aimed at expanding theoretical knowledge in a specific field of research[11].

Most universities in Hungary are state-owned. There are also private universities funded by churches, commercial organizations or foundations. The accreditation requirements for both types of universities are the same.

Programs in English are presented in both state and private universities. The cost of an English-language education does not differ much depending on the type of university. However, in public universities there is a greater chance of obtaining scholarships for foreign students. For example, this applies to Stipendium hungaricum and bilateral state scholarships. At the same time, private universities also offer discounts and grants to students. For example, in CEU there is a financial assistance program that covers the full cost of tuition.

Here you can learn more about admission to universities in Hungary. Requirements for applicants vary depending on the university, but the general package of documents includes:

Groups and associations of educational institutions

Universities of Hungary are members of major international and European associations:

  • International Association of Universities (IAU). The association includes 6 universities of Hungary[12]: Budapest Business School, Corvinus University of Budapest, National University of Public Service, Semmelweis University, University of Pécs. The IAU brings together higher education institutions and other associations from more than 130 countries. It also provides a global forum for interaction, cooperation, and mutual learning between higher education institutions.
  • European Universities Association (EUA). EUA includes 12 Hungarian universities and the Conference of Hungarian Rectors[13]. 9 of the universities are located in Budapest, and one each in Debrecen, Oven, and Szeged. The Hungarian Conference of Rectors is an independent state corporation representing universities and protecting their interests[14].

    More than 800 universities participate in the association in 48 European countries. The EUA plays a decisive role in the Bologna process and influences EU policies in higher education, research, and innovation.

  • Utrecht network. The network includes 33 members in 28 countries of Europe. The association is engaged in the mobility of students and teachers, summer schools, internationalization, and the integration of curricula and degrees. Eötvös Loránd University is a part of the association.

Often, Hungarian universities become participants of inter-universities in collaboration with other countries. They offer interdisciplinary modules and programs conducted on the campuses of several universities at the same time. For example, Eötvös Loránd University participates in the alliance CHARM-EU (Reconciling Humanity with the Planet), Central European University — at CIVICA (European University of Social Sciences), University of Pécs is a part of EDUC (European Digital UniverCity), Hungarian University of Fine Arts is a member of the EU4ArtAlliance (Alliance for Common Fine Arts Curriculum), University of Szeged — a member of the European Medical Alliance EUGLOH (European University Alliance for Global Health)

The oldest universities in Hungary.

The history of Hungarian universities dates back to the 14th century. The first universities appeared in Pécs (1367) and Óbuda (1395), but they did not survive to this day — they were closed in 1410. So, Pázmány's University is considered the oldest university, founded in 1635[-],.

At that time, universities were created as religious educational institutions, where men were taught theology, medicine, philosophy, and law. Subsequently, many Hungarian universities were secularized and transformed into centers of scientific research. However, today, among the oldest universities, there are universities that continue theological education.

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The best medical universities in Hungary

The level of medical academic programs in the country is quite high: 3 universities in Hungary take place from 300-500 in the QS ranking for Life Sciences and Medicine. Hungarian university degrees are recognized in all European Union countries as well as in Israel and India. Medical education in Hungary also allows graduates to take the USMLE exam and MCCEE [15].

Medical programs, in general, are among the most expensive in the world: tuition costs for a year of studies can reach 53,548 USD. In Hungary, studying medicine is cheaper: the cost of education at the best universities is on average 16,065 USD per year. Training is conducted in English or German. The most expensive programs chosen by foreign students in Hungary are general medicine, dentistry, pharmaceuticals, veterinary medicine[4].

It is worth noting that the procedure for admission to medical programs has its own specifics. The applicant needs to pass the entrance exams. They include tests in biology, chemistry, English and physics, as well as oral interviews in specialized subjects. Information about exams must be checked on the websites of universities, as each university prepares its own tests and assignments.

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Free universities in Hungary

Universities in Hungary are not expensive compared to the rest of Europe. The minimum price for a year of study for a bachelor's degree is 3,213 USD.

For citizens of Hungary and the European Union, education may be free. Each year, the Hungarian government determines the number of state-funded seats. The best students are selected by academic performance. Normally such students do not need to pay application and registration fees, but depending on the training program, they may be asked to deposit a small sum[16].

Foreign students have the opportunity to study for free under the program Stipendium hungaricum. It was launched in 2013 to make the Hungarian education system more international. More than 5,000 students from around the world began studying in 2019 with this scholarship[4].

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Interesting facts about Hungarian universities

  • Many talented people studied in Hungary, who later became Nobel Prize winners. For example, Philipp Lenard and Eugene Wigner — laureates in the field of physics, György de Hevesy and George Ola — in the field of chemistry, György von Békésci — in the field of medicine, Imre Kertesz — the first Hungarian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature[17]. It is also worth noting Denes Gabor — the inventor of holography and Albert Saint-Györgya who isolated vitamin C.
  • Especially distinguished is the Eötvös Loránd University. It is associated with 5 Nobel Prize winners, as well as Wolf, Fulkerson and Abel prize winners. The last of them was Endre Szemeredi — Abel’s laureate in 2012[18].
  • The Rubik's Cube was invented by the Hungarian professor of architecture and sculptor Erne Rubik. Rubik studied at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics and at the Academy of Applied Arts and Design in Budapest. Initially, the professor showed the cube to his students to explain the 3D object. He did not realize that he had created the puzzle until he first assembled the cube. Rubik filed a patent on January 30, 1975[19].
  • In Hungary, the number of young people (25-34 years old) who have graduated from universities is much lower than in other OECD countries. The OECD average is 31% versus 44%[20].
  • In 2017, the majority of international students came to study at Hungarian universities from Iran, China, Serbia, Nigeria and Ukraine. And the main area of ​​study has become the field of healthcare and social security: more than a third of foreign students have chosen precisely these areas to study[4].
  • On October 1, 2019, the University of Pécs completely refused to buy water and drinks in plastic packaging in favor of reusable bottles. Additionally, 70 free water coolers were installed on the territory[21].
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