Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem ×

History of the University

Early History

The Eastern Commercial Academy is established
One of the direct precursors of our university used to be the Eastern Commercial Academy, established in 1899. First wholesalers from the capital city and elsewhere in Hungary, then industrial leaders as well as representatives of industrial and banking capital started to call rather early (from around the 1850s) for the training of professionals as a key to developing industry and trade. The rapid growth of industry and trade necessitated trained economists, moreover state administration required professionals working in foreign affairs and foreign trade. It followed that a special college that would later become an economic faculty or a university needed to be set up. In fact, the Eastern Commercial Course was launched in 1891 and evolved into the Eastern Commercial Academy in 1899, an autonomous state college that trained graduate professionals for service in foreign trade, targeted mostly at the Balkans.

Training is launched at the at the Economics Faculty of the Hungarian Royal University of Science
University-level education in Economics, just as in the advanced counties of the world, was launched in 1920 at the Economics Faculty of the Hungarian Royal University of Science. A social movement to create an autonomous university of Economics enjoying the same rights as the other universities had started around the turn of the century and gained increased momentum until World War I.  Due to political crises and the outbreak of the war, however, the issue did not resurface before 1917. At the proposal of Director General Elemér Balogh, Hangya Szövetkezet (a huge producers’, distributors’ and consumers’ co-operative) offers a fund of one million crowns for the benefit of the future university of Economics. The Commission in charge of establishing the university invited Béla Erődi-Harrach Jr, one of the most recognised economists of the age, to write a study defining the tasks, orientation and educational system of the University of Economy. The legislative proposal on establishing the faculty, however, was only adopted by the National Assembly after the end of the war and the collapse of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. At the outset, four programmes were offered (General Economics, Agriculture, Trade and Consular/Diplomatic). The length of the studies was 8 semesters, concluded by the last Rigorosum (a State examination). While students in Public Administration, Economics and Trade graduated as Economists, students in Agriculture graduated as Scientific Agriculturists.

The Faculty of Economics becomes integrated in the Palatine Joseph University of Technology and Economics
The first ever university integration of Hungary took place in 1934 when the Economics Faculty was integrated into the Palatine Joseph University of Technology and Economics. The survival of an autonomous entity had been repeatedly called into question from the end of the 1920s. Following lengthy discussions it was decided that mainly due to savings considerations, the entity would be merged into the University of Technology. Cultural Minister Bálint Hóman submitted the bill on the „organisation of the Palatine Joseph University of Technology and Economics” to the House of Representatives on 2 March 1934. The creation of the new university was in line with the restructuring of higher education in general. In the wake of the integration of four higher education institutions, a brand new „universitas” both in terms of dimension and structure was born, covering the fields of Engineering, Economics and Agriculture. The number of students showed a steady growth from the next decade on, with a relatively high proportion of students of worker and peasant origin enrolled even prior to the world war.

Between 1945 and 1990

The Karl Marx University of Economic Science is established
The events of the world war itself did not fundamentally affect the faculty, political events nevertheless brought about significant changes. Finally, the Hungarian University of Economics was established by Act LVII of 1948, although this also implied reorganisation along Marxist ideology. There was hardly any continuity between the new university and its predecessors: nearly all professors were dismissed, the departments were restructured, the courses and the schedule were changed, training in public administration was discontinued. As for students, they were filtered through a highly political admission procedure. A change occurred in the university’s location, too. A decision to reconstruct the Chief Customs Palace, heavily damaged during the war, as a university was taken in 1948. The students could take possession of the building in 1950. To mark the end of the transformation, in 1953 the university was renamed Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences. From 1955 to the end of the 1980s the university operated three faculties, namely the General Economics, the Industrial and Trade Faculties.

In the flurry of events of the 1956 Revolution
Owing to the ideological constraints of the Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences as well as its academics’ and student’ close contacts with political life (Imre Nagy Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of Ministers who was later executed acted as an external lecturer, for instance), the university was receptive to change. A number of persons took part in organising the funeral of László Rajk, a prelude to the Revolution. On 22 October 1956, the eve of the Revolution, an assembly attended by academics, students and even working class youngsters was staged.  As an outcome of lengthy, passionate discussions a 22-point list of policy demands was drafted that resembled similar documents adopted by other universities. On 23 October courses were cancelled, everyone was caught in the fever of the imminent demonstration. The students of the university of economics took part in an organised march to the Bem Statue: besides the Hungarian tricolour, they were also waving red flags. Although on the following day the university’s building was closed and teaching was suspended until 1 February 1957, university citizens would come in to keep abreast of developments. The University Revolutionary Student Committee as well as the university battalion were formed at the end of October. Even though the building was spared by street fights, on 4 November the invading Soviet troops fired shots at it, thereby killing one student.

Pioneer of the Eastern Bloc
The revolution did not end the hegemony of the State party, however within the existing strict limits, standards started to rise slowly and a process of democratisation took off. One of the milestones in this process was Kálmán Szabó’s election as Rector in 1968. Under his leadership, a major reform plan was implemented: the structure of education and the curriculum were modified, the number of compulsory classes was reduced while the proportion of autonomous tasks was increased; greater emphasis was laid on seminars and small training groups. During this period, owing to the Ford programmes, 16 academics took part in extended study visits to the US; in fact the professional knowledge and pedagogical skills thus acquired were instrumental in implementing the reform.  The first College of Advanced studies in the country, the Rajk College was founded in 1970 under the leadership of Attila Chikán. Besides serving as a role model and inspiration for other colleges, it made a very important contribution to introducing state-of-the-art knowledge in Management, Economics and Social Sciences. The university carried out pioneering research in the Eastern bloc in a number of disciplines (Economic History, Marketing and Management sciences, Mathematical Economics, Finance, Business Economics). Students benefitted from a more up-to-date and ideologically less burdened education than at most of the universities in Socialist countries.
 
After the political changes

At the dawn of a new era
In 1990 in the wake of political changes the Budapest University of Economic Sciences welcomed students with an educational offer matching new expectations. The way had already been paved by the major educational reforms implemented in the 80s under Rector Csaba Csáki. Whereas students of the School of Economics could immerse in the various questions of Theoretical Economics, those of the Business School acquired the business skills that helped them cope on the market. As for the Faculty of Social Sciences, it became one of the major hubs of contemporary Hungarian social science. Most of the study programmes lasted for 10 semesters until the middle of the 2000s. The transition to the Bologna system meant that at present as a rule undergraduate programmes span 6 to 7 semesters, and Master programmes 4 semesters. The 7 doctoral schools of the university offer doctoral education in every discipline otherwise covered.

Entering the international scene
The university did its best to benefit from the opportunities offered by the new historic situation. Over time, it built excellent relations with the main stakeholders of Hungarian economic and scientific life. This has led to the involvement of the best practising professionals in education as well as an increased offer of internships, projects and research programmes to help advance students’ career. Thriving partnerships were established with a number of West-European institutions, in fact the university became a member of the CEMS Alliance of the leading business schools and companies of the world in 1996, an alliance that accepts only one institution per country. In 2019 Corvinus launched a joint MBA study programme with one of the top universities of Asia, the Fudan University of Shanghai. Students at Corvinus are among those making the most of international exchanges offered by the Erasmus mobility programme.

Outstanding students, active student life
The bustling student life that had been characteristic of the university continued after 1990. Students can nowadays choose among a plethora of activities offered by 7 advanced colleges and more than 40 other student organisations. While some of these organisations focus on a certain field, others offer opportunities in networking and obtaining international experience. They also include community-based and charity organisations. Owing to the study programmes, the international opportunities and the services of the student organisations, each year the most talented students of the country apply to Corvinus. The proportion of foreign students is on the rise. The career prospects of the graduates of the university are excellent, many of them are in key roles in economy, science and politics.

At the top of Hungarian and regional rankings
Thus, Corvinus occupies the top tier of international rankings that have come to play an increasing role from 2000. In 2018 the Figyelő magazine declared Corvinus to be the best university in Hungary, and its Business School the best faculty in the country. According to the latest summary published by the HVG magazine, in terms of student excellence the Corvinus Business School is the top business programme nationally, in terms of academic excellence the same is true of the School of Economics.  In rankings Corvinus features among the best universities of Hungary and the region: In Eduniversal’s 2019 ranking, Corvinus Business School is the best business school in Eastern Europe, in addition the Master in International Management offered in co-operation with CEMS was chosen the eighth such programme by the Financial Times Business School rankings.
 

Changes of name and organisation since 1990

1990: The name of the university was changed from Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences to University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration of Budapest.
2000: As a result of the integration of the University of Economic Sciences of Budapest and the College of State Administration, the University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration of Budapest was born. The institution operated the following faculties: College-level Faculty of State Administration, Business School, School of Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences.
2003: The faculties of the Buda Campus of the Szent István University of Gödöllő (former University of Horticulture and Food Science) also joined the university, thus increasing the number of faculties to seven (the Faculties of Food Science, Horticultural Science and Landscape Architecture were added to the existing four faculties).
2004: The integrated university was named Corvinus University of Budapest.
2012: The Faculty of Public Administration (former College-level Faculty of State Administration) was merged into the National University of Public Service
2016: As of 1 January 2016 the Faculty of Food Science, the Faculty of Horticultural Science and the Faculty of Landscape Architecture became reintegrated into the Szent István University.
2019: As of July 2019 the operational model of the Corvinus University of Budapest was modified. The Hungarian State in its role as maintainer of the university was replaced by a State Foundation, the Maecenas Universitatis Corvini. The role of the first President was taken by Anthony Radev.
 
 
Timeline

1899: The direct forerunner of Corvinus, the Eastern Commercial Academy is established
1917: At the proposal of Director General Elemér Balogh, Hangya Szövetkezet (Producers’, Distributors’ and Consumers’ Co-operative) offers a fund of one million Hungarian crowns for the benefit of the future university of Economics
1920: On 5th October, Act XXXI of 1920 on the establishment of the Economics Faculty of the Hungarian Royal University of Science enters into force. The first start-of-term ceremony takes place on 31 October.
1934: The Faculty of Economics becomes integrated into the Palatine Joseph University of Technology and Economics
1948: The autonomous Hungarian University of Economics is born
1950: The university moves to the former Chief Customs Palace located at Fővám tér
1953: The University is renamed Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences
1956: An assembly is held with the participation of academics and students that adopts a 22-point list containing key national policy demands. On 23 October students take part in a dignified march to the Bem Monument. Education is suspended until 1 February 1957.
1968: Kálmán Szabó becomes Rector and implements a major reform with regard to the study programmes.
1970: The first of its sort in Hungary, the Rajk László College of Advanced Studies is founded under the leadership of Attila Chikán
1989: As an outcome of faculty restructuring, the Business School, the School of Economics and the Faculty of Social Sciences comes into being.
1990: The university is renamed Budapest University of Economic Sciences
1996: The University joins the CEMS Alliance of the leading business schools and companies of the world.
2007: Building „C” at the corner of Közraktár and Czuczor Streets is inaugurated, the Campus on the Pest side now comprises three buildings together with the Chief Customs Palace and the Salt House
2019: A joint MBA programme is set up with one of the best universities of the world, the Fudan University of Shanghai

 
Sources:
Palánkai Tibor: Ötvenéves a Budapesti Közgazdaságtudományi Egyetem (Közgazdasági Szemle, XLV. Évfolyam, 1998. december)
Zsidi Vilmos: A Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem Pesti Campusának története – Kalauz az Egyetemtörténeti kiállításhoz

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