Branches of Study
Hungary introduced the Bologna three-cycle degree structure in pilot projects in 2005 and in all Bachelor programmes in 2006. (These mainly replaced the traditional four /five year long, so called ’dual’ programmes of the former education system) 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 14 BA/BSc programmes in public and private institutions in the following fields of study (and of the following ECTS credits): agriculture [180+30], humanities , social sciences , IT , law and public administration , economics [180; 180+30/60], engineering , medical and health studies , teacher training [180-240]; sports , science , arts [180/300], art mediation . (The National University of Public Service (NUPS) provides education in the field of Public Administration, National Protection and Military services, however, there is a separate law and a set of government decrees on the NUPS, its programmes and its operation.)
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 defined in a decree by the Minister responsible for Higher Education.
In terms of expected outcomes, Bachelor programmes belong to the first cycle of the qualifications framework developed for the European Higher Education Area and represents level 6 of the Hungarian Qualifications Framework. (Which is compliant with level 6 of the European Qualifications Framework, based on the Referencing Report of Hungary, approved by the Advisory Group of the EQF). These general outcomes (standards) are regulated in an official ministerial communication, and a separate ministerial decree determinates the standards of teacher trainings. 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.
There are no centrally defined regulations on the internal phases of the programmes. However, the framework regulation allocates the credits in order to give guidance for programme planning and lists the disciplines, characteristic fields from which the training programs are built, and also assigns a range of credits to them. Furthermore, a legal act sets out that if, within a programme there is an option for specialisation, or module, which may lead to a separate vocational qualification then these modules or specialisations must also be subject to an accreditation procedure.
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. Higher Education Institutions define and publishes (on the official website of the admission procedure; http://felvi.hu ) the secondary school leaving examination and other criteria (for example advanced level school leaving examination, aptitude, oral entrance exam) for each Bachelor programme.
Applicants for Bachelor studies have to reach a certain number of points comprising of upper secondary grades and the grades obtained at the secondary school leaving examination.
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 and Bachelor programmes.
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 by awarding extra 40 points to such persons in the admission procedure, or exemptions from certain admission criteria. These are stated in the Higher Education Act and the Government Decree 423/2012 (XII. 29.) on Higher Education Admission Procedure. Applicants can earn additional points for outstanding performance in secondary school or in sports (usually based on rankings in international and national competitions), for passing an intermediate or advanced level foreign language exam, for obtaining a secondary vocational qualification, for completing a maximum of 6 or 12 months of voluntary military service, and for specialised training.
The minister responsible for Higher Education – 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. A central computerised algorithm ranks the applicants of each programme and, on the basis of the programme's admission capacity (approved of by the minister), 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.
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 (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. Admission criteria and procedures are regulated by a government decree.
The regulatory framework of the training programmes is not institution specific, but rather focuses on the programmes. The Minister responsible for Higher Education publishes the exit requirements (expected outcomes) of the first cycle (in accordance with the generic descriptors of the HQF level 6.) in an official ministerial communication. A regulation framework (description of training and learning outcomes requirements) is developed for each bachelor programme, its structure and the procedure for its establishment were regulated by a ministerial decree. The development of the training and learning outcomes requirements of a new programme are subject to the prior approval of the Minister responsible for higher education. With this, the institution (or institutions) concerned can develop the training and learning outcomes requirements. These contain the name and credit value of the programme, exit requirements, standards (in terms of learning outcomes), academic disciplines, main fields of knowledge to be taught, specific requirements of the final thesis, foreign language requirements, traineeship requirements. If the establishment of the new programme is supported by the Higher Education Planning Board, the Hungarian Rectors’ Conference and the Accreditation Committee, the minister responsible for Higher Education publishes them in a decree and includes the programme in the Register of Tertiary Qualifications. These frameworks are applicable to all higher education institution which wishes to launch such a programme – they can develop the curriculum and programme documentation accordingly.
The institutions elaborate their curriculum based on the training and outcome requirements of the programme and the relevant legal framework. Consequently, the law regulates the minimum number of contact hours per term (200) and the general rules of credit allocation (in accordance with the ECTS) are regulated in a decree. The accreditation guidelines of this decree and 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 in the central register 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, institutions prefer to launch foreign language mirror programmes of their already existing, accredited programmes, which does not require a preliminary programme accreditation procedure. As of 1 July, 2020, a simplified procedure applies to the development and launch of joint trainings under the Erasmus+ and its successor programmes. There are national minority language and culture degree programmes, where the language of instruction is the language of the national minority concerned. (E.g. there are German minority, Croatian minority, Romanian minority, Ukrainian minority, Serbian minority, the Slovak minority, the Slovenian minority specializations) within the Bachelor programmes of German studies, Slavic studies, Romance languages undergraduate (Bachelor) programmes, for which the language of education is the respective national language and / or the language of the home country of the minority. These programmes are open for all students.
There are no central (governmental/ministerial) guidelines on 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. Evaluations of recent years focusing on the introduction of the multi-cycle education system have pointed out that more conscious and deeper changes are necessary in order to improve the quality of the first cycle programmes and to achieve the objectives of the education.
New teaching and learning management methods as well as innovative technology are used at the initiation of individual teachers or teams of teachers, however, according to research studies, they seem to be fragmented and isolated even within an institution.
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 teaching methods, teacher training 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. In line with the Act on Higher Education, tertiary institutions are obliged to carry out competence assessments on students prior to and at the end of their studies. Since the framework and the methodology of this assessment is still unclear, only a few assessments have actually taken place yet; just some of the institutions attempt to assess students’ competence.
Talent support is also receiving more and more focus. In the network of student research societies 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. There are currently about 330 registered students’ specialist colleges in Hungary. Knowledge gained in these forms of learning may be recognised in the ECTS credit system.
Progression of Students
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 Hungarian Rectors’ Conference published references in 2016, aiming at decreasing the number of drop-outs, and in 2019, to improve credit recognition. On the other hand, student unions strive for including all opportunities provided by the law in institutional regulations. A recent amendment to the law requires institutions to introduce and use microcredentials.
As regards to students’ rights and obligations, the law 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.
After that, students can still continue their studies but as self-financing students.
Furthermore, the law stipulates that institutions ensure
- that students are granted the opportunity to enrol for optional course units up to five percent of the credits required for the award of the diploma,
- and are offered a range of credit-earning course-units to select from at least twenty percent in excess of the total number of credits required.
- students have 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,
- and of taking at least 10% of the required credits in a foreign language.
Institutions declare in their Study and Examination Regulations that a student’s study duration should not be infinitely long. The usual regulations are as follows: a student may take a given subject in a maximum of three different semesters, and if he / she is unable to complete the subject at the third time, he/she will be dismissed for academic reasons. The number of possible exam attempts in a given subject is maximised (usually maximum 5-6 attempts). During his/her studies, the student can take active semesters (for which the student develops an individual study schedule, enrols in classes) or, in a limited number, passive semesters (when he/she does not take any classes and his/her student status is terminated). The regulations stipulate that the student must accumulate a total of at least 60 credits in the first two or four active semesters, and there are institutions where the prerequisite for continuing one’s studies is tied to a specified average academic achievement.
Underperforming students at state funded places are transferred to fee-paying status. The state funded status of underperforming students is filled by fee-paying students with good academic performance. As of 2022, higher education institutions are responsible for establishing the reclassification criteria previously regulated by law. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government stopped these status transfers in 2020 and 2021.
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. Consequently, the institution may give permission to suspend studies for longer than two subsequent terms, or before performing the first term.
The proportion of students progressing slowly or dropping out is significant. Many are unable to get their degree because of failing to pass an intermediate language examination necessary for obtaining a degree – although this restriction has been abolished in 2020 and 2021 retroactively by the government in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2022, through an amendment to the law, instead of the central regulation, the definition of this criteria was handed over to the institutions. Many institutions have no information about the further career of their former students, whether they entered the labour market or continued their studies in other institutions or abroad.
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. The systematic introduction thereof has started, but the degree of implementation varies from institution to institution.
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.
Since September 2015, dual programmes have been offered in the field of engineering, IT, agriculture, natural sciences and business. The main features of these programmes were defined centrally and are based on the cooperation between higher education institutions and the business sector. After term-time, students gain work experience at the companies engaged in the cooperation under the guidance of a mentor. The chances are high to be able to be offered a permanent position upon graduation. The government supports these cooperation programmes by providing targeted grants and tax benefits to the institutions and the involved companies. The Dual Training Council ensures quality assurance and assessment of the work-based learning component of dual training. The government’s objective is to have 5% of students in STEM fields to be enrolled in dual training.
Career consulting services have been set up in almost every higher educational institution in Hungary. Career consulting service providers have been quick to develop networks and in-service training and thus have been providing increasingly professional services. National Roundtable of Career Offices are hosted by the Conference of National Union of Students. Job fairs and other events where students can meet employers are held regularly at universities and colleges.
Hungary has started the introduction of the graduate career tracking system. The Higher Education Act stipulates that higher education institutions participate in the centrally coordinated national career tracking system and provide data for the system. Several higher education institutions developed their own career tracking system, which includes a standardised survey. This ensures a large sample size for analysis. Data is regularly collected and analysed in the Graduate Career Tracking System concerning the labour market acceptance of graduates as well as the training and employment strategies. Within the framework of the Educational Authority’s career tracking system, a detailed analysis was made several times by integrating administrative databases. 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. The detailed and visualized results of these surveys, researches and analyses are available on the felvi.hu website for those applying to higher education and planning on further studies.
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 and in-process evaluations are also common. In case of small-group classes (seminars, laboratory practices) there is usually continuous assessment of students.
Since 2007, the Act on Higher Education explicitly refers to the acknowledgement of non-formal and informal learning. The act sets out that at least one third of the credits required for the student to obtain their degree (diploma) shall be obtained in their home institution. Although the main objective of this provision was to prevent students moving from one institution to another for the sake of escaping the performance requirements, but it also facilitated validation and the recognition of formal, non-formal and informal forms of learning. Research shows that institutions do not have policies for assessing and recognising non-formal and informal learning.
The 5-point scale is the most common form of evaluation (5 – excellent, 4 – good, 3 – satisfactory, 2 – pass, 1 – fail). This scale system is not applied on a relative scale (ensuring that each year about the same proportion of students achieves each score). In fact, the requirements are nearly the same each year, therefore the evaluation is of absolute nature.
It is the state that defines and recognises degrees through the government and the Ministry responsible for Higher Education. Degrees (and the diploma) can only be awarded by state recognised (accredited) higher education institutions, which acquire the right to issue diplomas following an accreditation procedure and state recognition. Degree programmes are defined by Training and Learning Outcomes Requirements published in the official ministerial communication. 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. (May contain several elements, defined by the institution: defence of the thesis, oral exam, written exam, work-based exam). 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 includes the Hungarian Qualifications Framework (HuQF) and European Qualifications Framework (EQF) levels of the qualification. The diploma is a public document and has to be registered accordingly.