Education system in Hungary

Higher education in Hungary

Hungarian higher education has a long history, dating back to the 14th century. The country’s first university was founded in 1367 in Pécs around the same time as other central European universities, such as those in Prague, Krakow and Vienna. Due to the expansion of higher education in the last two decades, the number of enrolled students and the capacity of the institutions have increased considerably. From 1990 to 2010 the student population in higher education quadrupled, from 90,000 to around 400,000.

The Hungarian higher education system

Hungary has been taking part in the Bologna Process since 1999, the most important goal of which is the creation of the European Higher Education Area. Being in force from September 1, 2006 the new Bologna regime three-cycle degree system has been introduced. First degree programmes (3 to 4 years) lead to Baccalaureus/Bachelor’s degrees, while second degree programmes (1 to 2 years) lead to Magister/Master’s degrees. Unified, undivided, long-term Master’s degree programmes (5 to 6 years) are offered in some fields of study, e.g. in human medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, architecture, law and in a few programmes of art education. All Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees grant access to the labor market. Based on a Magister / Master’s degree or its foreign equivalent, PhD or Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA) degrees as third cycle degrees can be awarded after 3 years of study.

In addition to the degree programmes described above, higher education institutions offer non-degree programmes too, such as short cycle programmes, higher-level vocational trainings, postgraduate specialist training courses based on a first or second degree as well as summer universities and partial trainings in the framework of lifelong learning.
Higher education programmes may be offered in full-time study, part-time study or distance learning courses.

In line with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), Hungary has established its own national qualifications system. According to the EQF, Hungarian BA/BSc degrees correspond to EQF Level 6, MA/MSc degrees correspond to EQF Level 7, and PhD degrees to EQF Level 8.

The Higher Education Act currently in force is in accordance with the principles of the Bologna process, - three cycle degree structure (BA/BSc, MA/MSc, PhD/DLA).


Types of programmes

Within the framework of the multi-cycle system, BA/BSc programmes of 6 to 8 semesters (ISCED 5A, 180-240 ECTS credits) lead to a first degree. Master level programmes (ISCED 5A, 60-120 ECTS credits) of another 2 to 4 semesters require a first degree as admission criterion. The pre-requisite to entering doctoral programmes (ISCED 6) is a MA/MSc degree. Besides the BA-MA system, there are a few fields of tertiary education (e.g. law and medical studies) where undivided long programmes remain the standard form of study (10 to 12 semesters, 300-360 ECTS credits, ISCED 5A) leading to a first degree but equivalent to a MA/MSc degree.

Short cycle advanced vocational programmes (felsőfokú szakképzés, ISCED 5B, 120 ECTS credits) are relatively new in the Hungarian education system. These programmes can be launched by higher education institutions and provided by them as well as by upper secondary schools. These programmes lead to an advanced vocational qualification included in the National Qualification Register.

Higher education also includes post-graduate specialization programmes (szakirányú továbbképzés) at ISCED level 5A. These can be launched by higher education institutions and in certain areas (like banking and fiscal trades) by national authorities.

Bachelor (BA/BSc) and Master (MA/MSc) 
Students studying in Bachelor (BA/BSc) and Master (MA/MSc) courses complete their studies by passing a final examination. The final examination may consist of the defense of the degree thesis and additionally oral, written or practical examinations.

Integrated "Long" (One-tier) Programmes
An undivided one-tier programme resulting in mesterfokozat (Master's degree - MA) is a training with a length of 10-12 semesters, requiring the completion of 300-360 credits. Besides religious education and some programmes of arts, the following programmes are conducted within one-tier Master's courses: veterinary medicine, architecture, dentistry, pharmaceutics, law and medicine.

First/Second Degree Programmes (Two-tier)
The first higher education degree is the Bachelor degree (alapfokozat) along with a professional qualification. A Bachelor's course requires gaining 180-240 credits. The length of the programme is 6-8 semesters. The second higher education degree is the Master's degree (mesterfokozat) along with a professional qualification. Built on a Bachelor course Master courses require gaining 60-120 credits. The length of the programme is 2-4 semesters.

• Specialized Graduate Studies
Higher education institutions may also offer postgraduate specialist training (szakirányú továbbképzés) for BA and MA degree holders. Through the completion of 60-120 credits a specialized qualification can be obtained. Students complete their studies by passing a final examination. The length of the programme is 2-4 semesters.

• Doctorate
Built on a Master course and a Master's degree the Doctorate course (doktori képzés) requires gaining at least 180 credits. The length of the programme is 6 semesters. Following a Doctorate course, in a separate degree awarding procedure, the scientific degree "Doctor of Philosophy" (abbreviation: PhD), or in art education "Doctor of Liberal Arts" (abbreviation: DLA) may be awarded.


Organization of higher education

In Hungary, higher education institutions can be state-owned or run by legal entities determined by the law. The latter can ask for the official recognition of the state based on satisfactory results of an accreditation process conducted by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee.


The Hungarian Grading Scheme

The assessment of knowledge is generally carried out according to a five-grade scale: excellent (5), good (4), satisfactory (3), pass (2), and fail (1) or a three-grade scale: excellent (5), satisfactory (3), fail (1). Nevertheless, higher education institutions may also use other systems for assessment if they are comparable to those mentioned above.