Fighting the legacy of the communist period in Hungary is not just a political task. It is also an educational one. To this purpose, a Budapest-based institution — Mathias Corvinus Collegium — has been expanding operations in most of the Hungarian-populated areas of Central and Eastern Europe.
Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) is an elite training institution that has been in operation since 1996. The goal of the enterprise was clear from the very beginning: to nurture and develop responsible opinion makers and leaders willing to work on behalf of their communities.
Operated by the Tihanyi Foundation, a private initiative started by András Tombor and his father Balázs Tombor, MCC is based on a community of shared values. By providing students with world-class professional skills, the MCC aims to develop patriots who will be able to promote their national interests at a high level across the world.
The MCC selects highly talented individuals and, through its various programs, provides them with education and training (free-of-charge). It targets Hungarians living in the Carpathian Basin — from age 10 to the end of their university studies. This supplements the general education they receive from public schools.
At the beginning, the MCC community only had a handful of students. Today it has around 2,500. This active community attracts many young people who, as students, exhibit open-mindedness, sharpen their abilities to tackle complex problems, and develop team-working skills. In fact, the motto of MCC is: “Bonus intra, melior exi!”, which translates into: “Enter as a good person, leave as a better one!”
Its educational offering comprises: the Young Talents Program, which is open to applicants starting at age 10. This program focuses on individual growth and development, and uses the methodology of ‘experiential education’. Students are introduced to relevant, everyday topics, which may include law and finances, the science of robotics, how to perform CPR, and trying out as reporters. Currently 650 students participate in the program, which is constantly expanding. Participants are located not only in the six biggest cities of Hungary but also in the Hungarian-populated areas of Transcarpathia (today a region of Ukraine), such as the town of Beregszász, among others.
MCC’s secondary school program (abbreviated in Hungarian as “KP”) offers unique e-learning-based training with courses providing insights into contemporary history, law, economics, and international relations. Currently around 1,800 students participate in this program. The program not only aims to improve students’ competitiveness in the education system and in university admissions, it also seeks to increase their self-awareness. It also offers them personalized skill development and ongoing career guidance.
The most intense experience is offered by the residential university program, which is only open to 20-25 of the best applicants. In the first year of the program, students attend various courses on political philosophy, logic, argumentation techniques, and presentation skills. Other courses focus on the development of specific skills. The first year is followed by two years of specialized training in the fields of law, economics, history, international relations, media and communications, and psychology. About three-fourths of the professors teaching in MCC’s program are visiting professors from renowned international universities.
Students’ general university studies do not need to correspond to the specializations eventually chosen in the program. This results in creative, new ideas and stimulating, productive debates. Beyond their MCC studies, other requirements that students must meet include participating in an internship (organized with the assistance of MCC) and contributing to a team project while at the MCC.
In Transylvania (which today is a region of Romania), in order to lend a helping hand to youths that are part of the Hungarian community, MCC operates a center in the town of Kolozsvár. There, it offers the Transylvanian Secondary School Program and the Kolozsvár University Program, both of which follow the model of successful secondary school and university programs in Hungary.
Also in Transylvania, a postgraduate Political School has been started which is open to young people within the Hungarian community who are interested in public affairs. Additionally, the Sub-Carpathian Public Leadership Program and the Women’s Public Leadership Program (currently available only in Hungary) were created with a similar purpose in mind. These postgraduate training programs are designed for those who already take an active part in public life — but who aspire to take on an even bigger role.
The efforts made by the MCC to support the Roma minority in Hungary are also worth mentioning. Thus, mentoring and training courses aimed at developing the skills and abilities of highly talented Roma secondary school students and university students are also offered by the MCC.
On account of its professional background, MCC also functions as a kind of think-tank. The institution has published several books and has organized numerous panel discussions, trade forums, and conferences. In March of 2019, for example, it organized a unique global conference under the title of the “Budapest Summit on Migration — The Biggest Challenge of Our Time?” Attended by analysts, experts, researchers, and decision-makers from dozens of countries around the world, the event featured presentations and discussions by people such as Frank Füredi, Douglas Murray, Theodore Dalrymple, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Beyond the founder’s initial financial support and active intellectual input, numerous other prominent decision-makers — both from within and beyond Hungary — have rallied to support the MCC and its activities. They include, for example, the late Hungarian-American historian John Lukacs, the former president of Hungary Ferenc Mádl, and Ferenc Rabár, who served as finance minister during the first conservative government after the democratic transformation.
The MCC also receives active support from other luminaries such as Hungarian philosopher András Lánczi, currently rector of Corvinus University who simultaneously serves as president of MCC; the orientalist linguist and philosopher Miklós Maróth; and numerous other conservative political leaders, executives from various Hungarian enterprises, and many others.
In the past 25 years, the MCC has gone a long way to become a dominant elite training institution, serving the needs of Hungary and nearby Hungarian communities. But it has also become a leading conservative think-tank serving both Hungary and the CEE region. By meeting local educational needs with an eye on long-term educational attainment and success, it has truly become a model enterprise.