Image by Telex

Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) is a Budapest-based educational institution founded in 1996, initially directed at university students in the arts and social sciences. From the beginning, the organisation has been closely linked with rightwing politics and Hungary’s populist ruling party, Fidesz.  

MCC initially provided a few dozen students with schooling on top of that provided by public education, but later the number of students grew steadily and the courses became more diverse. After Prime Minister Viktor Orbán came to power in 2010, the organisation received more and more public funding and gradually expanded abroad. It became clear that the education MCC offered was not ideologically independent but aimed at training Orbán’s conservative youth.

This joint investigation by Hungarian news portal Telex and its sister outlet in Romania, Transtelex, aimed to scrutinise the financing and operation of MCC and to provide a detailed picture of how its courses contribute to the transformation of public life not only in Hungary but also in Romania.

The five-part series of articles that resulted from the investigation looked at the workings of the MCC Foundation education network, which is funded entirely by the Hungarian state, from all manner of angles.

Image by Telex

Among the findings:

  • While the Hungarian public education system is underfunded and conditions are poor, MCC offers an altogether more luxurious learning and teaching experience. Students are offered generous scholarships, excellent dormitory accommodation and free camps, making studying at the institution seem like a privilege.
  • MCC’s leaders include many people with links to the governing parties. Contrary to what has been reported in the press, education in Hungary does not function as a cadre in itself, but some of MCC’s institutions are an important part of the Hungarian right’s intellectual hinterland.
  • Building ideological and political hegemony is not necessarily achieved by telling someone what to think and who to vote for. Rather, the trick is to present ideas that reinforce the ruling elite’s narrative as important and well-founded — for example, through MCC’s own events and publications and via the activities of institutes operating within MCC such as the Migration Research Institute. Of course, many organisations across the world take the same approach, but MCC does it with hundreds of billions of forints of public money.
  • With more than a billion euros in assets from the state, MCC is one of Hungary’s richest organisations. It spends a lot on buying, renovating and building real estate, putting it on track to become one of the biggest property owners in the country in a few years.
  • In recent years, MCC has expanded not only in Hungary but also beyond the country’s borders. In Transylvania, a region of Romania where more than a million ethnic Hungarians live, there are MCC centres in eight cities offering training programmes for all ages, from primary school children to adults, and at a quality unmatched in local public education. The Transylvanian network operates with more than €2 million a year.
  • MCC takes its elite education role seriously, and accordingly, it wants to use its vast resources not for the education of as many students as possible but for the best possible education of a finite number of students.

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