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Hungary Higher Education System

Structure of the Higher Educational System in Hungary
Admissions to Higher Education in Hungary
Types of Higher Education Institutions in Hungary
Cycles of Higher Education in Hungary
 


Types of Higher Education Institutions


The network higher education institutions is quite extensive in proportion to the country’s surface, population and the number of students enrolled in higher education, but, compared to other countries, it is of medium size. Higher education institutions can be categorised in the following two ways.

On the one hand, there is a clear distinction between state and non-state institutions. Non-state institutions can be founded by churches, business organizations or foundations. The foundation and operation of non-state institutions is subject to the same input (quality) criteria as the foundation and operation of state institutions and compliance is checked in the course of accreditation at the time of foundation. Institutions meeting the criteria are granted state recognition by the Parliament. State and non-state institutions recognised by the state are listed in the Annex of the Higher Education Act. Only organisations included in the list as well as municipalities and national minority governments can provide higher education. Establishment and operation of non-state higher education institutions are regulated by the Higher Education Act and related regulations. Non-state institutions also receive state funding, based on an agreement with the government. However, the budget of both state institutions and non-state institution is only partly financed by the state. The state grant provided for institutions maintained by the Roman Catholic church is governed by a concordate concluded between Hungary and the Vatican and the Hungarian government has concluded similar agreements with other historical churches for ensuring funding their higher education institutions.

On the other hand, as regards their academic profile, there are colleges (non-university higher education institutions) and universities. The main difference lies in capacities.

Universities are higher education institutions authorised to provide Master programmes in at least two fields of study and offer doctoral programmes and award doctoral degree in at least two fields of study. At least half of their teaching and research staff employed directly or on a public service employment basis have a doctoral degree. A university has at least three faculties, operates students' academic circles and is able to provide courses in foreign languages in some of its programmes. Universities are authorised to offer programmes in every educational cycle.

Colleges can also operate as a faculty of another higher education institution. At least one-third of their teaching and research staff employed directly or on a public service employment basis have a doctoral degree. Colleges are entitled to operate students' study circles. Colleges are authorised to provide Bachelor programmes, Master programmes, single-cycle long programmes, in accordance with the provisions of the government decree, as well as training that does not result in a higher education degree (higher education vocational training, post-graduate specialist training). No differentiation is made by law, but colleges are usually more active in practical education due to historical reasons. Their portfolio mainly offers first cycle programmes and shorter programmes and applied research. By contrast, universities usually offer more theoretically oriented degree courses; they have more Master programmes than colleges and are especially active in basic research.

State universities are large organisations with several faculties, while colleges are rather smaller institutions, with a few exceptions. Non-state institutions are usually smaller than state institutions (in terms of the number of faculties and students) and the majority of them are colleges.

Foreign higher education institutions may also operate in Hungary. In Hungary, foreign higher education institutions may offer study programmes resulting in a degree if their state-recognition granted in their home country is recognised and the operation is approved by the Hungarian Educational Authority. The Educational Authority recognises the foreign decision, if the principles of the higher education system of the respective state are in line with the educational fundamental principles of the European Higher Education Area. At present there are 28 such institutions.


First Cycle Programmes


In Hungary, two programmes resulting in different types of qualifications are provided in the first cycle of the Qualifications Framework developed for the European Higher Education Area: the short-cycle higher educational vocational training resulting in a higher education qualification and the Bachelor programme (baccalaureus, bachelor) resulting in a Bachelor degree.

Pursuant to the Higher Education Act it is not clear whether the higher educational vocational training is part of or is connected to the first cycle. The new Higher Education Act, adopted in 2011, modified the conditions of providing (and participating in) this type of programme, resulting in closer connections to the first cycle. However, the certificate obtained after accomplishing the programme does not evidence a separate qualification level. Please see the subordinate pages “Bachelor” and “Higher Educational Vocational Training” for more detail.

Bachelor

Branches of Study

Hungary introduced the Bologna three-cycle degree structure in pilot projects in 2005 and in all Bachelor programmes in 2006. Any higher education institution fulfilling accreditation requirements is entitled to launching a Bachelor programme.

The length and structure of Bachelor programmes are regulated by the Higher Education Act and related government and ministerial decrees. There are BA/BSc programmes in the following fields of study (and of the following ECTS credits): agriculture [180+30], humanities [180], social sciences [180], IT [210], law and public administration [180], national defence and military [180], economics [180], engineering [210], health [240], teaching [240]; sports [180], science [180], arts [180 / 300], art mediation [180].

A typical Bachelor programme lasts 3 years and is of 180 ECTS credits but in some fields of study there are programmes lasting for 3 and half years (180+30 ECTS) or for 4 years (240 ECTS). These programmes are included in the official list of degree programmes issued by the minister responsible for education.

In terms of expected outcomes, Bachelor programmes belong to the first cycle of the qualifications system developed for the European Higher Education Area. These general outcomes were regulated in a ministerial decree in 2006 in accordance with the Dublin desrciptors. The more specific outcomes of each programme (usually developed by consortia of higher education institutions) are in compliance with the outcomes specified in the ministerial decree. Both the specific outcomes of the programmes and the programmes to be launched are accredited.

Admission Requirements

Every Hungarian citizen has the right to undertake studies in programmes fully or partially financed through scholarships granted by the Hungarian state or pay full tuition. Passing an upper secondary school leaving examination is a general requirement for admission to higher education. The government defines the secondary school leaving examination criteria for each Bachelor programme. There are no alternative access routes to higher education.

The higher education institution makes its decision on admission on the grounds of the performance of applicants, based on the standard national ranking in the case of application for entry into higher education vocational trainings, Bachelor programmes and long programmes.

Until recently, applicants for Bachelor studies were not required to sit for an entrance examination; the condition for admission was to reach a certain number of points comprising of upper secondary grades and the grades obtained at the secondary school leaving examination. The new Higher Education Act re-introduces the oral entrance examination with the stipulation that higher education institutions offering education in the same programme should define standard oral examination criteria for each programme. Oral entrance examinations may first be organised for the 2014/2015 academic year.

The government ensures equal opportunities for disadvantaged students, for persons on unpaid leave while nursing their children, for persons receiving parental benefit, child care support, maternity aid, maternity allowance or child care allowance as well as for persons with disabilities and persons belonging to a national minority when determining the number of state-funded places and the entrance examination criteria by allocating places and awarding extra points to such persons in the admission procedure.

The government – after consulting higher education institutions – annually publishes the capacity of each institution (that is, the maximum number of students to be admitted) broken down by fields and also the minimum scores required for admission into higher education (as a quality criterion). These values change every year. The number of the students admitted can be regulated with fairly good accuracy with the modification of the scores required for admission on the basis of the scores of previous years. A central computerised algorithm ranks the applicants of each programme and, on the basis of the programme's admission capacity (approved of by the government), it provides a list of successful applicants, which, in turn, determines the minimum score points necessary for entry to the programme concerned.

Applicants may submit their application to more than one institution and/or programme: on their application form, they indicate their preference of the institutions/programmes by ranking them and are admitted to the first one for which their score is sufficient. Students admitted to a study programme – provided that they make a declaration – become eligible for state scholarship. (In academic year 2012/13, students had the opportunity to gain partial state scholarship: those awarded with it were supported with 50% of the amount of the state scholarship.) This opportunity ceased to exist in 2013. In a phasing-out system, those students who were granted partial state scholarship in the previous academic year continue to receive their grants.

The admission procedure and admission requirements are regulated in a government decree. Information on admission (including programmes to be launched by institutions and the expected number of entrants) is provided by the Educational Authority through an agency (Educatio Non-profit kft., http://felvi.hu), which also handles applications and operates the abovementioned computerised system (calculates the scores of applicants and ranks them). The Educational Authority also records and manages official data.

Curriculum

The minister responsible for higher education has determined the exit requirements (expected outcomes) of the first cycle (in accordance with the generic descriptors of the EHEA qualifications framework). A regulation framework (description of learning requirements and learning outcomes) is developed for each bachelor programme by consortia of cooperating higher education institutions. These learning requirements and learning outcomes contain the name and credit value of the programme, exit requirements (in terms of learning outcomes), main fields of knowledge to be taught, specific requirements of the final thesis, foreign language requirements, traineeship requirements. The Hungarian Accreditation Committee gives its opinion on the draft learning requirements and learning outcomes. Afterwards, the minister responsible for higher education publishes them in a decree and includes them in the Qualifications Register. The learning requirements and learning outcomes of a programme are applicable to all higher education institution which wishes to launch such a programme – they can develop the curriculum and programme documentation accordingly.

The law regulates the minimum number of contact hours per term (300) and the general rules of credit allocation (in accordance with the ECTS). The accreditation guidelines of the Hungarian Accreditation Committee specify the minimum requirements for resources (e.g. minimum number of full-time staff, staff with PhD title, capacity and infrastructure). These regulations have a significant impact on the curriculum and the actual implementation of degree programmes. The programme package (curriculum and programme documentation) is assessed by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee in a preliminary programme accreditation, following which the Educational Authority registers the programme and the programme can be launched.

It is possible to offer degree programmes in a foreign language or develop degree programmes to be launched in a foreign language. However, due to the requirements to be met for accreditation and the insufficient foreign language skills of staff, few higher education institutions actually undertake it. There are national minority language and culture degree programmes, where the language of instruction is the language of the national minority concerned. These programmes are accessible for non-nationality students too.

Teaching Methods

There are no central (governmental/ministerial) guidelines for teaching methods and learning environment – and they are often not regulated at institution level either. As regards learning environment, accreditation requirements contain some infrastructural-technical criteria (concerning the availability of a library, computers, etc.). It is traditions and established practices that teaching is most often based on.

New teaching and learning management methods as well as innovative technology are used at the initiation of individual teachers or teams of teachers.

The characteristics of organising degree courses are closely related to the forms of learning, e.g. sandwich courses and blended learning techniques are more often applied in case of part time courses. It is part of the autonomy of teachers to choose the teaching methods and learning management methods they use and thus usually there are no standardised, across-the-board approaches. Teachers are also free to choose the teaching aids, textbooks and reference books used for teaching. However, during the preliminary programme accreditation and the institutional accreditation, the list of teaching aids and bibliography is also reviewed.

In recent years, several ESF funded projects have been launched for developing and using cutting-edge (usually digital) content with several institutions participating in the development and sharing the end product through a joint, public database.

Due to the massification of higher education, the skills assessment of first-year students as well as offering remedial courses and/or courses of different levels of the same subject are gaining ground.

Talent support is also receiving more and more focus. In the network of students’ scholarly circles talented students are involved in research activities and their achievements are presented within their university/college and nationwide. Students’ specialist colleges are self-governing associations based on self-education. Knowledge gained in these forms of learning may be recognised in the ECTS credit system.

Progression of Students

Students previously had great flexibility in accomplishing studies, which has been restricted by the new Higher Education Act. The legislators introduced certain measures to ensure faster progression and to reduce dropout rates and overextended studies. Such measures include defining the length of studies for full or partial state scholarships and the expulsion of students who do not complete their studies within the prescribed time frame, in which case they are also obliged to repay the state scholarships received.

The previous Higher Education Act provided a large scope for students to assert their rights and determined the rights pertaining to the accomplishment of studies in a positive manner, while the new Higher Education Act focuses more on the obligations of students. The act enables students to obtain the number of credits necessary for their degree in a shorter or longer time than the length of the programme they are enrolled in. Provisions concerning grants/scholarships for students do not have an adverse impact on students progressing slower than the average, but aim at reducing unjustified overextended studies. The state-financed period for obtaining a given degree may be extended by a maximum of 2 terms. The higher education institution may extend the state-financed period of students with disabilities by a maximum of 4 terms. Furthermore, law stipulates that institutions ensure that the student has the opportunity of taking 10% more credits than the total number of prescribed credits of their study regime without having to pay extra tuition fee. After that, students can still continue their studies but at a fee-paying place.

Institutions also impose restrictions on the length of studies in their internal regulations. Students can usually study the same subject for a maximum of three semesters. If they fail to fulfil the related requirements for the third time, they are expelled from the institution. The maximum number of attempts at passing an examination in a subject is generally 5-6. It is usually obligatory for students to obtain at least 60 credits in the first 2-4 semesters. At the same time, they can also suspend their studies – but they are not allowed to exceed the official length of the programme by more than 50%.

Underperforming students at state funded places may be transferred to fee-paying places. If, within a period of two terms, students fail to collect at least half of the number of credits specified in the recommended curriculum, they may only continue their studies as fee-paying students and their state funded status is filled by fee-paying students with good academic performance.

After accomplishing the first term, it is also possible to suspend one’s studies for a maximum of two terms at one go – and the maximum total length of suspension is regulated by the institutions.

The proportion of students progressing slowly or dropping out is significant. Some postpone obtaining their final credits in order to prolong their student status and receiving the benefits attached. Many are unable to get their degree because of failing to pass an intermediate language examination necessary for obtaining a degree. Since the institutions do not collect data about these various study strategies, there are only estimates about the extent of dropping out and overextended studies, putting it about 40. Pursuant to the law, higher education institutions have to provide information and counselling for their students, therefore learning management services as well as study and career planning counselling is offered.

Employability

The introduction of the multi-cycle (BA/MA) system constitutes a significant step towards improving employability. Bachelor programmes are expected to be practice oriented and to improve employability. Most of them include obligatory traineeship. In several fields, the usually 6-term (180 ECTS credit) Bachelor programmes were extended with one or two terms (30-60 credits) to include a period of continuous traineeship of at least one term (30 credits). The traineeship is generally undertaken at external workplaces.

Career offices have been set up with EU co-funding within regional development programmes. At present there is career consulting service in nearly all universities and colleges. After closing the projects developing the career offices, institutions have to maintain the offices. Career consulting service providers have been quick to develop networks and in-service training and thus have been providing increasingly professional services. Job fairs and other events where students can meet employers are held regularly at universities and colleges.

The Higher Education Act stipulates that higher education institutions participate in the national career tracking system and provide data for the system. The methodology and central elements of the system were developed in an ESF funded central project. In addition, several higher education institutions were awarded a grant for developing their own career tracking system, which uses standardised methodology for data collection. This ensures a large sample size for analysis. First findings show that a significant part of graduates with a Bachelor degree find employment, a smaller proportion continue their studies in addition to working and only a third of them go on to study for a Master degree.

Student Assessment

There is no policy on student assessment at either national or institutional level. Although some institutions have started developing such a policy, it is generally the competence of teachers. Institutions only regulate conditions related to degree thesis and final exam.

Traditionally, oral examinations are held at the end of the terms in the exam periods but where the number of students is high, written examinations are also common. In case of small-group classes (seminars, laboratory practice) there is usually continuous assessment of students.

The Higher Education Act regulates the recognition of formal and informal prior learning. A maximum of 30 credits may be granted by higher education institutions for recognised prior learning. Research shows that institutions do not have policies for assessing and recognising prior learning; assessment and recognition are within the competence of teachers. In 2010 a central project was launched for developing a formalised recognition procedure and introducing it in institutions. The second phase of the project takes place in the period 2012-2014.

The Higher Education Act also stipulates that the performance of students is assessed either on a 3-point scale (excellent, satisfactory, fail) or 5-point scale (5 – excellent, 4 – good, 3 – satisfactory, 2 – pass, 1 – fail) or any other evaluation scheme included in the academic and examination regulations of the institution, provided that it ensures comparability.

Certification

It is the state that defines and recognises degrees through the government and the Ministry responsible for higher education. Degrees can only be awarded by state recognised higher education institutions. Degree programmes are defined by programme completion and exit requirements issued in a ministerial decree.

The Higher Education Act regulates the granting of degrees, the conditions to be fulfilled before a final examination and the main elements of final examinations. Higher education institutions regulate the way of registration for the final examination, the rules of organising and holding the final examination and the method of calculation the results. They administer the final examination and, based on the results, issue a diploma certifying the degree as well as a diploma supplement. The diploma is a public document.


Short-Cycle Higher Education


The government significantly transformed the previous short cycle programme; as an indication of this transformation the government changed the name of the programme to higher education vocational training. The transformation is still in progress: based on the provisions of the new Higher Education Act and the government and ministerial decrees of October 2012 on the detailed rules of the higher education vocational training the first new programmes started in the academic year 2013/14 (in the autumn of 2013). Students who started the short cycle programme in autumn 2012 are still taught according to the former regulations and relevant practice in a phasing-out system.

Branches of Study

It is unclear whether the Hungarian short cycle programmes (felsőfokú szakképzés) may be defined as first-cycle programmes of the Bologna system. These are advanced vocational programmes (ISCED 5B) provided by higher education institutions or upper secondary schools in cooperation with a higher education institution. They do not result in a higher education (Bachelor or Master) degree but an advanced vocational qualification included in the National Qualification Register.

Participants have either a secondary school student status or a higher education student status, depending on which kind of institution they pursue their studies at. All programmes last for 4 terms (2 academic years) and the qualification obtained is recognised (30-60 ECTS) in a relevant Bachelor programme.

The Hungarian National Qualification Framework, currently under development, will probably solve the problem of classification. According to preliminary studies, advanced vocational qualifications are compliant with level 5 of the European Qualifications Framework.

Studies may be pursued in the following branches of study: agriculture, catering and tourism, sales and marketing, business administration, management, architecture, chemical industry, IT, engineering, education, social services, other services, arts-culture-communication, health care and economics. These branches are compatible with the branches of study applied for Bachelor and Master programmes, i.e. agriculture, economics, IT, law and administration, technology/engineering, arts, art mediation, medical and health care, teacher education, science, social sciences.

The majority of higher education institutions offer short cycle vocational programmes. Similarly to other vocational (VET) programmes, the content and internal structure of the programmes are defined by detailed content and examination requirements issued as ministerial decrees.

Admission Requirements

The same rules are applicable to admission to short cycle vocational programmes as to admission to Bachelor programmes. Passing the secondary school leaving examination is a precondition to admission – there are no alternative access routes. There is no entrance examination; admission is subject to a score calculated on the basis of secondary school performance (year-end and term-end marks) and the results of the secondary school leaving exam. Similarly to admission to Bachelor programmes, extra points can be gained for extraordinary achievement in study or sports competitions, for foreign language exams and for disadvantaged background and disabilities.

The proportion of new entrants to short cycle programmes is stipulated in a government decree on the number of entrants to state funded places. It is then broken down to institutions. Applicants may apply for several programmes and several higher education institutions (indicating their order of preference on the application form) and will be admitted to the first programme and institution that their score entitle them to. Applicants are ranked by a central computerised algorithm.

Curriculum

Launching a short-cycle vocational programme is conditional on several requirements. Based on the content and examination requirements developed by higher education institutions, the Minister responsible for the qualification gives his opinion on the labour market justification. He approves the content and examination requirements and includes the programme in the National Qualifications Register. The content and examination requirements specify the content to be taught and the objectives in detail. Pursuant to the Higher Education Act, 30-60 of the ECTS credits obtained are transferred and recognised in relevant Bachelor programmes.

The programmes are held in Hungarian, there are few subjects taught in a foreign language.

Teaching Methods

There are no central regulations or guidelines on teaching methods and learning environment – and they are often not regulated at institution level either. The content and examination requirements include provisions on the infrastructure and technology to be used (e.g. library, availability of computers etc.). It is traditions and established practices that teaching is most often based on. New teaching and learning management methods as well as innovative technology are used at the initiation of individual teachers or teams of teachers.

It is part of the autonomy of teachers to choose the teaching methods and learning management methods as well as teaching aids, textbooks and reference books. In recent years, several ESF funded projects have been launched for developing and using cutting-edge (digital) content. In case of programmes offered in upper secondary schools, the teachers of the school also teach the students of short cycle programmes and they tend to use methods and pedagogic culture characteristic to upper secondary education.

Progression of Students

Students have great flexibility in accomplishing studies, which has long been debated by government officials responsible for funding and heads of institutions. The former insist on the more efficient use of public funding, while the latter blame the credit system for excessive flexibility and freedom resulting in many students progressing slowly and staying for too long in the higher education system without obtaining a degree. Institutions only do what is required by the law to encourage students to make progress, while student unions strive for including all opportunities provided by the law in institutional regulations.

The Higher Education Act provides a large scope for students to assert their rights and enables them to obtain the number of credits necessary for their degree in a shorter or longer time than the length of the programme they are enrolled in. Provisions concerning grants/scholarships for students do not have an adverse impact on students progressing slower than the average: students in state funded places do not lose their entitlement for public grants for two extra semesters after exceeding the official length of the programme. After that students can still continue their studies but at their own expense.

Institutions regulate the length of studies. Students can usually study the same subject for a maximum of three semesters. If they fail to fulfil the related requirements for the third time, they are expelled from the institution. The maximum number of attempts at passing an examination in a subject is generally 5-6. It is usually obligatory for students to obtain at least 60 credits in the first 2-4 semesters. At the same time, they can also suspend their studies – but they are not allowed to exceed the official length of the programme by more than 50%.

Underperforming students at state funded places may be transferred to fee-paying places. If, within a period of two terms, students fail to collect at least half of the number of credits specified in the recommended curriculum, they may only continue their studies as fee-paying students and their state funded status is filled by fee-paying students with good academic performance.

However, underperforming students often get round this by applying in the admission procedure again. If they are admitted to a state funded place (on the basis of their results in secondary school and the secondary school leaving examination), they start as first-year students again but their credits obtained so far are recognised.

Students can progress faster than the average and thus accomplish their studies in a shorter time than the usual length of the programme. After accomplishing the first term, it is also possible to suspend one’s studies for a maximum of two terms at one go – and the maximum total length of suspension is regulated by the institutions.

The proportion of students progressing slowly or dropping out is significant. Some postpone obtaining their final credits in order to prolong their student status and receiving the benefits attached. Many are unable to get their degree because of failing to pass an intermediate language examination necessary for obtaining a degree. Since the institutions do not collect data about these various study strategies, there are only estimates about the extent of dropping out and overextended studies, putting it at about 40%.

Pursuant to the law, higher education institutions have to provide information and counselling for their students, therefore learning management services as well as study and career planning counselling is offered but they are not fully developed in all institutions.

Employability

Since the aim of establishing short-cycle advanced vocational programmes was to meet the needs of employers, these programmes contain more practice or in-company placement than other higher education programmes. Regulations on establishing these programmes contain the same requirements as for establishing other vocational programmes, for example consulting sectoral organisations, employers, interest groups and other stakeholders. The minister responsible for the qualification concerned also takes it into account when approving the content and examination requirements of the programme.

It is telling that Bachelor students and graduates often decide to enrol to a short cycle vocational programme because of the labour market relevance of these programmes. Obtaining the first vocational qualification is free of charge and some elements of Bachelor programmes are recognised in short-cycle vocational programmes, which reduces the length of studies even more.

Student Assessment

There is no policy on student assessment at either national or institutional level. Although some institutions have started developing such a policy, it is generally the competence of teachers. Institutions only regulate conditions related to degree thesis and final exam.

Traditionally, oral examinations are held at the end of the terms in the exam periods but where the number of students is high, written examinations are also common. In case of small-group classes (seminars, laboratory practice) there is usually continuous assessment of students.

In case of programmes offered in upper secondary schools, the teachers of the school also teach the students of short cycle programmes and they tend to rely on multifunctional evaluation methods characteristic of school education.

The Higher Education Act regulates the recognition of formal and informal prior learning. A maximum of 30 credits may be granted by higher education institutions for recognised prior learning. Research shows that institutions do not have policies for assessing and recognising prior learning; assessment and recognition are within the competence of teachers. Two years ago a central project was launched for developing a formalised recognition procedure and introducing it in institutions.

The Higher Education Act also stipulates that the performance of students is assessed either on a 3-point scale (excellent, satisfactory, fail) or 5-point scale (5 – excellent, 4 – good, 3 – satisfactory, 2 – pass, 1 – fail) or any other evaluation scheme included in the academic and examination regulations of the institution, provided that it ensures comparability.

Certification

It is the state that defines and recognises qualifications through the government and the Ministry responsible for vocational qualifications. Rules on granting short-cycle vocational qualifications are different from rules pertaining to higher education degrees.

The minister responsible for vocational qualifications issues the content and examination requirements of the programme concerned. Examinations are organised by the National Institute for Vocational Education and are held before independent examination boards. Following a successful vocational examination, the institution issues a certificate certifying the short cycle vocational qualification. The content, issuing and registration of certificates are regulated by regulations pertaining to vocational education. Certificates issued are registered centrally.


Second Cycle Programmes


Branches of Study

Hungary introduced the Bologna three-cycle degree structure in pilot projects in 2005 and started to phase it in in 2006.Master programmes mainly replaced the earlier 4-, 5- or 6-year programmes. Any higher education institution compatible with accreditation requirements is entitled to launch a Master programme.

The length and structure of Master programmes are regulated by the Higher Education Act and related legal regulations. There are 13 branches of study (with the following ECTS credits): agriculture [120], humanities [120], social sciences [120], IT [120], law and management [120], national defence and military [90-120], economics [120], engineering [90-120], medicine and health [90-120], teaching [90]; sports [120], science [120], arts [120].

A typical Master programme lasts 2 years and is of 120 ECTS credits but in some fields of study there are programmes lasting for 3 terms (one and half years) with 90 ECTS or for 2 terms (1 year) with 60 ECTS. These require obtaining fewer credits because they are built on Bachelor programmes with a higher amount of credits. The programmes are included in the official list of degree programmes issued by the minister responsible for education.

In terms of output, Master programmes belong to the second cycle of the qualifications system developed for the European Higher Education Area. These general outputs were regulated in a ministerial decree in 2006. The more specific outputs of each programme (developed by the higher education institutions launching the programme first) are in compliance with the outputs specified in the ministerial decree. Both the specific outputs of the programmes and the programmes to be launched are accredited. The accreditation procedure is mainly for checking whether the necessary resources are available for launching a programme.

Admission Requirements

The procedure, central organisation, publicising and registration of admission to Master programmes are the same as to Bachelor programmes, admission requirements are entirely different.

Pursuant to the Higher Education Act, only Bachelor degree holders can be admitted to Master programmes. However, additional admission requirements are set by the institutions themselves, provided that they apply the same requirements to all applicants (irrespective of where applicants have obtained their Bachelor degree).

Applicants are given scores based on their performance and extra scores may be granted for outstanding performance, disadvantaged or multiply disadvantaged status, disability and applicants with young children. All this and the admission requirements are specified in the internal regulations of institutions. Institutions have varied procedures ranging from considering the results of Bachelor studies to conducting written or oral examinations or aptitude tests.

Programme completion and exit requirements specify the skills and competences to be acquired in the first cycle, which also have a number of credits allocated to them. During the admission procedure, institutions have to check whether applicants to a Master programme graduating from a dissimilar Bachelor programmes have acquired these competences. If the do not, it may be compulsory for them to acquire these prior to or during their Master studies. The admission procedure offers scope for the recognition of prior learning.

The minister responsible for higher education determines the number of state funded places for each branches of study on the basis of the needs and capacity of institutions and also takes into account labour market trends.

Applicants can apply to several institutions and programmes, ranking them in the order of their preferences on the application form. They will be admitted to the highest ranking programme in their list whose requirements they meet.

There are no alternative access routes at present.

Curriculum

The minister responsible for higher education determines the exit requirements (expected outcomes) of the second cycle (in accordance with the generic descriptors of the EHEA qualifications framework). A regulation framework (description of learning requirements and learning outcomes) is developed for each Master programme by higher education institutions. These learning requirements and learning outcomes contain the name and credit value of the programme, exit requirements (in terms of learning outcomes), main fields of knowledge to be taught, specific requirements of the final thesis, foreign language requirements, traineeship requirements. The Hungarian Accreditation Committee gives its opinion on the draft learning requirements and learning outcomes. Afterwards, the minister responsible for higher education publishes them in a decree and includes them in the Qualifications Register. The learning requirements and learning outcomes of a programme are applicable to all higher education institution which wishes to launch such a programme – they can develop the curriculum and programme documentation accordingly.

The law regulates the minimum number of contact hours per term (300) and the general rules of credit allocation (in accordance with the ECTS). The accreditation guidelines of the Hungarian Accreditation Committee specify the minimum requirements for resources (e.g. minimum number of full-time staff, staff with PhD title, capacity and infrastructure). These regulations have a significant impact on the curriculum and the actual implementation of degree programmes. The programme package (curriculum and programme documentation) is assessed by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee in a preliminary programme accreditation, following which the Educational Authority registers the programme and the programme can be launched.

It is possible to offer degree programmes in a foreign language or develop degree programmes to be launched in a foreign language. However, due to the requirements to be met for accreditation, few higher education institutions do it. There are national minority language and culture degree programmes, where the language of instruction is the language of the national minority concerned.

Teaching Methods

There are no central (governmental/ministerial) guidelines for teaching methods and learning environment – and they are often not regulated at institution level either. As regards learning environment, accreditation requirements contain some infrastructural-technical criteria (concerning the availability of a library, computers, etc.). It is traditions and established practices that teaching is most often based on. New teaching and learning management methods as well as innovative technology are used at the initiation of individual teachers or teams of teachers.

The characteristics of organising degree courses are closely related to the forms of learning, e.g. sandwich courses and blended learning techniques are more often applied in case of part time courses. It is part of the autonomy of teachers to choose the teaching methods and learning management methods and thus usually there are no standardised, across-the-board approaches. Teachers are also free to choose the teaching aids, textbooks and reference books used for teaching. However, during the preliminary programme accreditation and the institutional accreditation, the list of teaching aids and bibliography is also reviewed.

In recent years, several ESF funded projects have been launched for developing and using cutting-edge (digital) content with several institutions participating in the development and sharing the end product through a joint, public database.

Talent support is also receiving more and more focus. In the network of students’ scholarly circles talented students are involved in research activities and their achievements are presented within their university/college and nationwide. Students’ specialist colleges are self-governing associations based on self-education. Knowledge gained in these forms of learning may be recognised in the ECTS credit system.

Progression of Students

National and institution level regulation do not differentiate between Bachelor and Master programmes in terms of the progression of students.

Students have great flexibility in accomplishing studies, which has long been debated by government officials responsible for funding and heads of institutions. The former insist on the more efficient use of public funding, while the latter blame the credit system for excessive flexibility and freedom resulting in many students progressing slowly and staying for too long in the higher education system without obtaining a degree. Institutions only do what is required by the law to encourage students to make progress, while student unions strive for including all opportunities provided by the law in institutional regulations.

The Higher Education Act provides a large scope for students to assert their rights and enables them to obtain the number of credits necessary for their degree in a shorter or longer time than the length of the programme they are enrolled in. Provisions concerning grants/scholarships for students do not have an adverse impact on students progressing slower than the average: students in state funded places do not lose their entitlement for public grants for two extra semesters after exceeding the official length of the programme. After that students can still continue their studies but at their own expense.

Institutions regulate the length of studies. Students can usually study the same subject for a maximum of three semesters. If they fail to fulfil the related requirements for the third time, they are expelled from the institution. The maximum number of attempts at passing an examination in a subject is generally 5-6. It is usually obligatory for students to obtain at least 60 credits in the first 2 semesters. At the same time, they can also suspend their studies – but they are not allowed to exceed the official length of the programme by more than 50%.

Underperforming students at state funded places may be transferred to fee-paying places. If, within a period of two terms, students fail to collect at least half of the number of credits specified in the recommended curriculum, they may only continue their studies as fee-paying students and their state funded status is filled by fee-paying students with good academic performance.

Students can progress faster than the average and thus accomplish their studies in a shorter time than the usual length of the programme. After accomplishing the first term, it is also possible to suspend one’s studies for a maximum of two terms at one go – and the maximum total length of suspension is regulated by the institutions.

The proportion of students progressing slowly or dropping out is significant. Some postpone obtaining their final credits in order to prolong their student status and receiving the benefits attached. Since the institutions do not collect data about these various study strategies, there are only estimates about the extent of dropping out and overextended studies, putting it about 40%.

Pursuant to the law, higher education institutions have to provide information and counselling for their students, therefore learning management services as well as study and career planning counselling is offered but they are not fully developed in all institutions.

Employability

A career tracking system has been launched but at present only the first findings are available, which do not include Master degree holders since the first Master level students have just obtained their degrees. Nevertheless, the introduction of the multi-cycle system constitutes a significant step towards improving employability. A high proportion of Master programmes include obligatory traineeship. In addition, several institutions experienced that Master students are interested in practical knowledge and skills, which in many cases have led to the modification of programmes.

Career offices have been set up with EU co-funding through regional development programmes. At present there is career consulting service in nearly all universities and colleges. After closing the projects developing the career offices, institutions have to maintain the offices. Career consulting service providers have been quick to develop networks and in-service training and thus have been providing increasingly professional services. Job fairs and other events where students can meet employers are held regularly at universities and colleges.

The Higher Education Act stipulates that higher education institutions participate in the national career tracking system and provide data for the system. The methodology and central elements of the system were developed in an ESF funded central project. In addition, several higher education institutions were awarded a grant for developing their own career tracking system, which uses standardised methodology for data collection. This ensures a large sample size for analysis.

Student Assessment

There is no policy on student assessment at either national or institutional level. Although some institutions have started developing such a policy, it is generally the competence of teachers. Institutions only regulate conditions and evaluation methods related to degree thesis and final exam.

Traditionally, oral examinations are held at the end of the terms in the exam periods but where the number of students is high, written examinations are also common. In case of small-group classes (seminars, laboratory practice) there is usually continuous assessment of students.

The Higher Education Act regulates the recognition of formal and informal prior learning. A maximum of 30 credits may be granted by higher education institutions for recognised prior learning. Research shows that institutions do not have policies for assessing and recognising prior learning; assessment and recognition are within the competence of teachers. Two years ago a central project was launched for developing a formalised recognition procedure and introducing it in institutions.

The Higher Education Act also stipulates that the performance of students is assessed either on a 3-point scale (excellent, satisfactory, fail) or 5-point scale (5 – excellent, 4 – good, 3 – satisfactory, 2 – pass, 1 – fail) or any other evaluation scheme included in the academic and examination regulations of the institution, provided that it ensures comparability.

Certification

It is the state that defines and recognises degrees through the government and the Ministry responsible for higher education. Degrees can only be awarded by state recognised higher education institutions. Degree programmes are defined by programme completion and exit requirements issued in a ministerial decree.

The Higher Education Act regulates the granting of degrees, the conditions to be fulfilled before a final examination, the main elements of final examinations and the members of the final examination committee (it has to have at least three members, at least two of them with a doctoral degree and at least one of them has to be external, i.e. not employed by the higher education institution).

Higher education institutions regulate the way of registration for the final examination, the rules of organising and holding the final examination and the method of calculation the results. They administer the final examination and, based on the results, issue a diploma certifying the degree as well as a diploma supplement. The diploma is a public document.


Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure


Even after the introduction of the Bologna multi-cycle system, there are a few fields that retained their original programmes, which still have the features of the earlier, dual structure of 3-4-year-long college degree programmes and 5-6-year-long university degree programmes. There are different reasons for keeping the earlier structure in every field of study but it is typical of regulated professions and is related to the requirements set by external sectoral organisations and the traditions of the programmes.

The admission procedure and admission requirements are identical to those of programmes of the multi-cycle system. Applicants apply in the same procedure and they can apply to programmes of the multi-cycle system and to undivided programmes at the same time. Calculation of the scores needed for admission, regulations on extra scores and other rules are also identical.

There are no obstacles to further studies. College degrees obtained in the earlier system are recognised as Bachelor degrees and entitle such degree holders to apply for Master degree programmes or any other programmes for which a Bachelor degree is a prerequisite. University degrees acquired in the earlier system are recognised as Master degrees and entitle degree holders to apply for doctoral programmes or any other programmes that are based on a Master degree as a prerequisite.

There are several 5-6-year long undivided long programmes. Applicants to these apply in the same procedure as applicants to Bachelor programmes but after uninterrupted studies of 10-12 terms they obtain a Master degree. Programmes include medicine (12 terms, 360 ECTS credits), dentistry (10 terms 300 ECTS credits) and pharmacy (10 terms 300 ECTS credits) in the field of medicine and health care; veterinary medicine (11 terms, 300 + 30 ECTS credits) and forestry (10 terms 300 ECTS credits) in the agricultural field as well as architecture (10 terms 300 ECTS credits), law (10 terms 300 ECTS credits), some art programmes (e.g. film studies, theatre studies, stage director, acting, painting, sculpture, graphics, inter-media) and theology studies of some churches.

These programmes have nearly as many students as students of Master programmes.

Some programmes are offered both as undivided long programmes and as BA/MA programmes, as a result of agreements made by higher education institutions and professional bodies.


Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes


Organisation of doctoral studies

Doctoral programmes are mainly offered at universities, since only higher education institutions able to provide doctoral programmes and award a doctoral degree in at least one branch of study may have the name “university”. Doctoral programmes are provided in doctoral schools operating within higher education institutions in branches of study defined by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. (In the field of arts, there are programmes ending in a “Doctor of Liberal Arts” degree.) The operation of doctoral schools and the awarding of doctoral degrees are supervised by the doctoral councils of institutions.

Doctoral schools can operate and doctoral programmes can be offered only if accredited in an accreditation procedure. Doctoral studies basically include two phases: the first phase is a doctoral course of at least 180 ECTS credits (usually 3 years), following which doctoral students may apply for the second phase, a doctoral degree award procedure consisting of a doctoral comprehensive examination and the public defence of a doctoral thesis. The same regulations apply to doctoral schools/programmes in all branches of study. Doctoral schools operate in all branches of study (e.g. agriculture, humanities, medicine, social sciences); although in each university there are usually a few doctoral schools, e.g. one in every faculty.

Regulations have different provisions for the two phases. To the first phase the same regulations apply as to other degree programmes: it encompasses education, research and assessment (and in many cases internship) related activities conducted either individually or groups, tailored to the particularities of the field of science concerned and meeting the needs of Phd students. The second phase, the doctoral degree award procedure, is regulated by special rules concerning deadlines.

Doctoral students have the legal status of students and are entitled to state-funded grants. However, state-funded places are limited; the majority of doctoral students pays a fee and undertakes work in addition to pursuing studies in order to cover the cost of studies.

Participants of the second phase, the doctoral degree award procedure, are called Phd/DLA candidates. Phd/DLA candidates have not necessarily undertaken the first phase, it is also possible to prepare individually for a doctoral degree. The prerequisites are a Master degree and fulfilling the admission requirements to the doctoral degree programme. Higher education institutions cannot reject the application of candidates who have successfully accomplished the first phase at their institution. The candidate status is terminated if the candidate does not submit his/her doctoral thesis in two years after the start of the candidate status.

Admission Requirements

Selection of doctoral students is within the competence of the doctoral schools of higher education institutions. The prerequisite to admission is holding a Master degree. Typically there are oral entrance examinations for doctoral courses.

The number of doctoral students id not limited, the government only limits the number of state-funded places. The National Doctoral Council, consisting of the chairs of the doctoral councils of higher education institutions, defines the principles of distributing the state funded places among higher education institutions.

Status of Doctoral Students/Candidates

Doctoral students have the legal status of students with the same rights and responsibilities as Bachelor and Master students, e.g. entitlement to health and social insurance, performance based and need based grants and other welfare benefits.

However, a large number of doctoral students are admitted as fee-paying students. Similarly to students at state funded places, they have a student card entitling them to discounted rates when travelling or discounted admission tickets to cultural and other facilities. However, they are not entitled to state funded (need or performance based) grants.

In the second phase (the doctoral degree award procedure) candidates have no student status and no entitlement to grants any more. Since the second phase is not conditional on accomplishing the first, doctoral students may start it during their participation in the (potentially state funded) first phase.

Supervision Arrangements

The law does not regulate supervision and thus there are different internal regulations and different practice in doctoral schools. Typically, if there is no professor/researcher available for supporting a doctoral student in the doctoral programme, the doctoral school will hire one from another programme or another school for this specific task.

Multiple supervision arrangements are rare: independent experts are usually involved in the final examination and the defence of the doctoral thesis.

International tutoring/co-tutoring by supervisors is also uncommon; it is mainly dependent on the financial capacity of doctoral schools.

Employability

There are no systematically collected statistics on the ability of doctoral schools to improve employability. Some reports show that in several fields of science there are significant links to the local economy. Industrial staff may act as lecturers, tutors and external examiners at the defence of the doctoral thesis. In some fields (e.g. engineering, science, agriculture) it is typical that doctoral students and Phd candidates take a job at companies operating in that field during their doctoral studies.

Assessment

There is no policy on student assessment at either national or institutional level. Although some institutions have started developing such a policy, it is generally the competence of teachers.

In the first phase, the doctoral course, typically oral examinations are held at the end of the terms in the exam periods but there may also be written examinations/tasks. In case of small-group classes (seminars, laboratory practice) there is usually continuous assessment of students. The performance of students is assessed either on a 3-point scale (excellent, satisfactory, fail) or 5-point scale (5 – excellent, 4 – good, 3 – satisfactory, 2 – pass, 1 – fail).

Doctoral schools regulate the way of assessment of the research activity and the doctoral thesis of doctoral students.

Scientometric methods are often used for evaluating the research activities of doctoral students, since they are required to publish the findings of their research. Very often, one of the requirements of enrolling to the degree award procedure is to achieve a certain publication index and impact factor. In disciplines where there are not enough accessible publication opportunities for doctoral students or there are no internationally standardised scientometric methods, doctoral schools themselves develop assessment tools to evaluate the performance of doctoral students. These are also similar to a publication index but also including presentations at conferences, articles in journals and technical translation etc.

Doctoral councils also set criteria for the evaluation of doctoral theses and especially for the procedure of evaluation in order to ensure the presence of external evaluators and examination board members.

Certification

Higher education institutions are entitled to granting degrees if they are recognised by the state and are entitled to awarding doctoral degrees after an accreditation procedure.

The doctoral degree is defined in the Higher Education Act and is awarded by the doctoral councils of universities. The doctoral council of a university decides on granting the degree upon recommendation by the committee of the doctoral schools. It is also the doctoral council that determines the requirements to be met for the different grades of doctoral degrees (rite, cum laude, summa cum laude). Following the decision, the higher education institution concerned hands over the degree (and the certificate certifying it) to the candidate at a ceremony.

Pursuant to the Higher Education Act, Phd degree holders may use the titles “PhD” or “Dr.” before their names and DLA degree holders may use the titles “DLA” or “Dr.”. The doctoral degree is officially recognised by the state.


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