What was your professional background when you became the Chairman of the Board of Trustees in 2020?
I have known and monitored the work of the public foundation for a long time, since I have been teaching in higher education since 1996. I was the director of the Széchenyi College for many years, and quite a lot of our students took advantage of the scholarships and professional opportunities provided by the Public Foundation.
For the past 25 years, in addition to my teaching duties at the university, I have worked mainly in the field of social policy. I headed the National Institute of Family and Social Policy, and from 2005 I led the charity service of the Reformed Church. In 2014, I was asked by Minister Zoltán Balog to take on the role of Secretary of State for Social and Inclusion Affairs. Since 2018 I have been managing the Social Leadership Training at Károli Gáspár Reformed University.
Looking at your career we can say that in the last 25 years, you have been quite close to the Public Foundation, albeit from different positions. How do you see the importance of the organization turning 25 this year?
Despite the economic and social changes that have taken place over the last quarter of a century, Tempus has remained unchanged in its mission to improve the quality of education and training. We are working to increase the participation of more and more people in international education and training cooperation and to ensure that the Hungarian educational institutions offer internationally competitive knowledge.
We continuously provide opportunities for a wide range of target groups to gain experience abroad, and we also provide professional support to applicants so that as many people as possible can join the international community.
The Public Foundation has put itself on the map of Hungarian education primarily with its grants, but it also promotes the sharing of experience in education, training, and youth policy, in addition to managing the grant programs. Our goals include raising international awareness of domestic developments in priority policy area topics, such as the prevention of the increasingly challenging issue of early school leaving, or the rise of digital education, which has become more and more important in the last two years.
In your opinion, in Hungary where are the areas where the impact of the Tempus programs can be felt?
The past 25 years and my own experience in higher education show that the projects implemented can integrate into institutional strategies in the long term, become an integral part of the institutions' training system, thus the programs we support are increasingly effective and can have a greater impact on an even wider scale. These processes are already well advanced in higher education, but it is clear that they are also underway in public education and vocational training as well.
The professional work that Tempus continues to deliver to a consistently high and reliable standard benefits not only the participants of the programs, but society as a whole. These programs help Hungary to strengthen its international knowledge transfer system.
As we have mentioned before, over the last 25 years, Hungary has undergone significant changes both socially and economically. How do you see the role of the Public Foundation in these changes and how has this role changed since the beginning?
If we look at the economic and social processes of the last quarter of a century, it is clear that one of the factors of the economic growth in the 2010s, an improving macroeconomic environment, low unemployment, high employment, and a steadily rising income levels is the rapid and intensive expansion of higher education from the 1990s onwards.
The Public Foundation’s support for internationalization in higher education has played a very important role in this process. The experience gained through the mobility of students, teachers and researchers contribute greatly to improving the quality of education, modernizing training courses and improving institutional services.
I am convinced that Tempus has actively contributed to the effectiveness of Hungarian higher education through its work, and thus to the improvement of competitiveness, social mobility, and the internationalization of higher education.
At the same time, we should not forget the international cooperation in the fields of public education, vocational training, adult education or even youth affairs, supported by the TPF, in which the newly discovered innovative methods, new tools and technologies have also contributed to the modernization and development of the Hungarian education and training.
It can now be clearly stated that the Public Foundation is responsible for the coordination of almost all international cooperation programs available in the education, training and youth sector, thus playing a unique role on the Hungarian educational scene.
What has enabled Tempus to successfully carry out the tasks entrusted to it for 25 years?
In short, I would describe it in four words: reliability, transparency, flexibility, and quality approach. These are the hallmarks of Tempus Public Foundation’s work.
Furthermore, the Public Foundation has always been guided by national strategic objectives and has always seen its own service in this context, despite the many challenges it has faced. We only must think of the changes in the regulation, structure, and funding of higher education over the last two and a half decades: the transition to the Bologna system, the new strategies that emerge in every 4 years, the challenges posed by the epidemic. In all these situations, the organization has managed to cope.
This moment of celebration is a good occasion to look back and reflect a little on the road we have travelled and to see and understand that the effectiveness and usefulness of our work has always been and will always be conditional on our activities being understood in the wider social and economic context, as a means of promoting the common good.
As with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, we are talking with you about the last 25 years of TPF. Why is this task important to you?
As you can see, Tempus has done a tremendous job over the last 25 years. As an economist, social policymaker and university lecturer, the mission of the public foundation is important to me, because it contributes greatly to social investment in knowledge capital, an investment in the future of the country that will pay rich dividends for many years to come.
I am convinced that it is a matter of national strategy to provide students, educators, and researchers with the opportunity to participate in international knowledge accumulation processes and to strengthen academic mobility, as this has a direct impact on the country's competitiveness, economic performance and social security.
As Chairman of the Board of Trustees, what do you wish for TPF’s 25th birthday?
I wish the Public Foundation to continue to have a ministerial background for the next 25 years that recognizes and appreciates the professional knowledge, skills and dedication of its staff and ensures the conditions for peaceful, professional and autonomous work. For the staff, to continue to see the Foundation as a place to work in the next quarter of the century, a place to come to, a place to experiment with innovative initiatives, a place to realize their professional ideas and a place where they are appreciated.
Authors: Dóra Várszegi and Zsuzsanna Győrpál | Tempus Public Foundation
Last modified: 08-11-2021