Prior to the agenda of the Senate meeting, Rector Előd Takáts announced that Éva Bodnár, Dalma Hodászi Réka and Miklós Rosta would not be able to attend the meeting in person, but would be able to join the meeting via MS Teams, but would not be able to vote. In total 24 out of the 27 members of the Board were present at the meeting held in the Council Hall of Corvinus University.
Institutional culture change and new application process
As the first item on the agenda, the applications for the three Vice-Rector positions (Vice-Rector for Academic Development, Vice-Rector for Research, Vice-Rector for Education) were reviewed. In his introduction, Rector Előd Takáts said that the applications are intended to establish a new, transparent selection culture at the university, where a number of candidates will be competing in such a call. “It was very good to see so many concepts, values and ideas battling it out in front of the jury”, the Rector stressed, and pointed out that the proportion of women leaders at Corvinus is positive compared to Western European universities: the three candidates for the position of Vice Rector are all women.
The interviews of the Vice-Rector were conducted by a 6-member ad hoc committee (President Anthony Radev, Rector Előd Takáts, HR Manager Zsuzsanna Csentericsné Arnold, Professor István Benczes, Professor Erzsébet Kovács, Professor Miklós Virág). In the first half of the one hour structured interviews, the candidates were asked general questions about the vision of the university and the leadership role, and in the second half an hour specific questions were asked.
From the Senate, Gergely Kováts raised the question why only the applications of candidates supported by the committee can be seen by the Senate, especially since the applicants have signed the GDPR declaration and therefore agree to make it publicly available.
The Rector stressed that this application is part of a culture change process, the first step of which is not to discourage anyone from applying. He believes that, at present, presenting a losing application would be a setback for colleagues at the University. It was a management decision not to make losing applications public to the Senate, for which the Rector takes responsibility. He also said that in 10 years’ time there may be a practice where it would be possible to conduct the Vice-Rector application process with a publicly available list of candidates and materials.
It was also mentioned that in the future, it is planned to share aggregated data on the number of candidates, age, gender ratio in the announced applications for the post of the Rector.
The Senate supported Petra Aczél’s application for the post of Vice-Rector for Academic Development with 20 votes in favour, while there were 2 votes against and 2 invalid votes. The Senate supported the application of Tamara Keszey for the post of Vice-Rector for Research with 18 votes in favour while there was 1 negative and 5 invalid votes. The Senate supported the application of Réka Vas for the post of Vice-Rector for Education with 18 votes in favour, while there were 4 negative and 2 invalid votes.
Focus on the 2022 budget figures
The second item on the agenda was the vote in support of the budget of Corvinus University of Budapest for the year 2022. Chancellor Ákos Domahidi presented the budget, and in his introduction he reminded that the Senate has the power to give its opinion, and the decision on its adoption can be taken by the Board of Trustees of the Maecenas Universitatis Corvini Foundation, the institution’s maintainer.
The Chancellor said that decentralisation had been one of the key principles in the budgeting process, so the departments that actually spend or collect revenue were also involved in the planning. The other key principle was subsidiarity, so that the decisions on the amounts needed were actually taken by someone who can clearly see the right aspects.
Here are the main figures of the 2022 budget:
Ákos Domahidi explained the income and expenditure elements of the budget, saying that HUF 13.1 billion was planned for personal expenses, which is an increase of 3% compared to last year. He stressed, however, that this does not correspond to the percentage increase in wages, so a wage increase is also expected this year and has been included in the total amount.
He also stressed that HUF 1 billion was planned for IT developments and digitalisation, and HUF 2 billion would be spent for infrastructure developments and investments.
Several questions were raised by the Senate regarding the budget. Balázs Felsmann and Mária Dunavölgyi called for a more detailed budget and additional statements, for example, they missed the comparison of the income and expenditure of some priority projects or conferences. They also asked how realistic it is to expect a revenue of HUF 1.2 billion from Corporate and Institutional Relations, if this department brought in HUF 200 million in revenue for the University in 2021.
Miklós Virág asked how the HUF 12.96 billion in funding from the Foundation came about, and Tamás Gyulavári asked why the University does not expect a more significant wage increase in line with the increased teaching and research expectations, since lecturers at a less prestigious provincial university’s economics faculty earn the same amount with less publication output.
President Anthony Radev reminded the Senate members that Corvinus University had been running on a budget of around 17 billion forints per year during its state-run period, but that the renewal goals would require a budget of around 30 billion forints. The maintaining foundation has a fixed income of around HUF 10 billion from dividends, so that amount of money can be expected from them each year, and the University needs to add HUF 20 billion to the foundation’s income to pay European-level salaries for teachers. The University cannot do this yet in 2021.
More revenue is needed for higher wage increases
The president stressed that the university’s revenue-generating capacity needs to be improved in several areas. He said that there is still a lot of room for manoeuvre in the area of corporate relations, mentioning a case where a project proposal was rejected by the head of the Corvinus Institute, referring to other priorities and research.
Anthony Radev said that research proposals also needed to be improved, for example by developing knowledge transfer, with experienced colleagues passing on to young people the knowledge of the main criteria for winning tenders. In addition, the income from students can be increased if the message is conveyed that there is no shame in using student loans to finance their studies, as in the end the value of their degree and their outstanding salary will pay off.
Miklós Virág said that this situation raises the question of whether the Foundation alone can provide the funding the University needs to be competitive at European level. In his opinion, the state should either support the foundation more intensively or the University directly.
In response, Anthony Radev said that part of the institutional strategy is to make staff salaries competitive with those of Western European universities, and that Corvinus wants to achieve this on its own.
According to the president of FDSZ BCE SZB Trade Union Gábor Toronyai the budget integrates leadership interest and lacks the process of democratic decision making. He suggested to fund a “Budget, Finance and Asset Management” committee, so that the Senate could follow the process of developing the budget. He added that the Trade Union and Corvinus Alkalmazotti Tanács (Corvinus Employee Council) expressed their concern in the autumn about wages and incomes, but subsequently none of the labour organizations were able to participate meaningfully in the budgeting of wages for the coming year.
Miklós Rosta emphasized his opinion that the budget in its current form doesn’t serve the University’s interests, so he suggested coming up with a new budget that better supports the appreciation of the human capital at the University.
Asked whether they were preparing an optimistic or a pessimistic budget, Chancellor Domahidi Ákos said that they had rather presented a stable budget that would ensure the smooth running of the institution.
He also pointed out that the amount of funding is not determined by the foundation that maintains the institution, but the University prepares its own budget, which determines the amount of funding that should be allocated to the institution. “This is a very important change from the previous model. Before, the budget determined the strategy, now the strategy is financed by the budget,” said Ákos Domahidi.
Thanking the the comments and questions raised, the Chancellor promised to incorporate the lessons learned into the planning process for the next budget. He added that the budget presented would be supplemented by fixing the rate of average wage increase for 2021, which was 8 percent in the service sector and 12 percent in the academic sector.
In the vote on the budget, the Senate finally voted against the adoption of the 2022 budget of Corvinus University of Budapest with 12 votes in favour, 4 against and 8 abstentions.
In conclusion, Rector Előd Takáts said that the Senate was unable to discuss the third item on the agenda due to lack of time, but that another meeting would be held in December, when this item will also be discussed.