The most popular Hungarian higher education institutions and programs in 2009


The number of Master programs available in Hungary increased significantly this year, offering not only an advancement opportunity for students of the first BSc and BA programs who graduate this year in most institutions, but also giving a much wider perspective for older age degree holders to continuing their studies.

This year has produced a significant increase in student numbers again after a long time, thanks largely to the applicants entering the Master programs. At the same time, this has also led to a restructuring in popularity rankings of institutions and faculties in Hungary. The primary winners of this transformation seem to be universities with a long history, traditionally offering education at several faculties. The first students to enter the new BSc and BA programs will graduate this spring, and so popularity tendencies of programs in the new Bachelor system resulting from the Bologna transformation can also be analysed in comparison with previous years. What follows is a close-up view of a selection of interesting data on applications to higher education in Hungary in 2009.

Winners of the Bologna system are classical large universities

This year's application statistics have reinforced the dominance of classical large universities traditionally offering education in several different fields. If we include each stage and schedule (full time, part time, correspondence) of education, these five institutions have attracted more than a third of all applicants in 2009. Four of these (the Eötvös Loránd University, the University of Szeged, the University of Debrecen, the University of Pécs) take one of the first five places, but the University of Miskolc is also regularly one of the ten most popular institutions. Except for the University of Pécs, which has shown an average increase, all of the others have significantly increased their applicant numbers, which is largely a result of students graduating in the first BSc/BA programs this year, as well as the high number of Master programs launched in the university centres with a significant catchment area.

The Eötvös Loránd University continues to be the most popular institution

The first five places in the ranking of the most popular universities and colleges are taken by the same five institutions as in 2008. Moreover, their sequence is also very similar to that of a year ago, only three institutions have shifted places (Table 1). The Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), which has taken the first place for many years, continues to lead the popularity top list with a great advantage. In 2009, every tenth applicant indicated ELTE as his/her first choice. Moreover, the increase in student numbers was far above average (41.9 per cent) in this institution of the capital city, which is a sign that the Hungarian university with the highest number of qualified instructors is the unquestionable winner of the two-level education system.

The ELTE has been followed by the same three institutions for years. Among these, the University of Szeged has advanced to the second place, representing an increase in student numbers even higher than the ELTE (46.3 per cent) as compared to 2008. The other institution that has exceeded the magic threshold of ten thousand applicants is the University of Szeged. The University of Debrecen, which has taken third place, has achieved a lesser increase (43.9 per cent), but this still exceeds the average. The University of Pécs shows a quite uneven performance: after the outstandingly high popularity experienced three years ago (2nd place), it fell back somewhat two years ago, but has stably preserved its fourth place since then. However, it has been weaker again this year compared to the other classic large universities, achieving an average degree of growth (29.8 per cent).

Table 1 NUMBER OF APPLICANTS BY INSTITUTIONS Counting all applicants based on first choices in the application form (all levels of education and schedule arrangements)(Five most popular institutions)

Place in 2009 (2008) Abbreviated name of institution Name of institution Number of applicants (persons)
2009 (2008)
Change compared to 2008 (%) *
1 (1)
Eötvös Loránd University
13 037 (9187)
2 (3)
University of Szeged
10 013 (6843)
3 (2)
University of Debrecen
9749 (7229)
4 (4)
University of Pécs
8449 (6509)
5 (5)
Corvinus University of Budapest
7588 (6091)

Soaring faculties of Humanities, declining institutions of Economics

Differences in faculty comparisons are greater than those among institutions in the rankings. The first five places are taken by the same faculties as in 2008, but institutions have shifted places here, too, and differences are significant in the increase of applicant numbers. The Faculty of Humanities of the Eötvös Loránd University has proved to be the most popular place of education in Hungary again. Last year was the first time that the list was not led by the Budapest Faculty of Humanities, but this year, largely as a result of the richest offering of Master programs, the number of those who chose the faculty in the first place (3801 persons) has increased radically (51.1 per cent). The other traditional educational centre of the Humanities, the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Szeged also shows a substantial increase (47.5 per cent). The increase is much more modest (0.5 per cent) and far below average in both the Faculty of Economics of the Corvinus University of Budapest, which took first place last year for the first time, and the Faculty of Tourism and Catering of the Budapest College of Economics (1.4 per cent). Finally, it is worth paying some attention to the only actor in the sphere of Science and Engineering that could make its way to the list of the most popular faculties. The number of applicants to the Faculty of Science and Informatics of the University of Szeged is above two thousand, which shows that this was where the number of students choosing the faculty has seen the greatest increase (61.8 per cent) among the top institutions, as compared to 2008.

Faculties of Economics continue to lead the popularity ranking

Programs of Tourism and Catering, generally available in colleges (5042 persons) started to lead the list a year ago, taking the place previously held by Economics and Management (4302 persons), which is dominantly offered by university faculties. The difference between the two continued to increase this year, with the number of students who chose Tourism and Catering in the first place increasing by nearly one quarter as compared to last year. The increase in the popularity of another Economics program, Finance and Accounting, has been even greater, achieving the fifth place in the popularity ranking with its increase of 50% (2978 persons). The third and fourth places in the list of the most popular programs have been alternately taken by Engineering and Informatics (3067 persons) and Communication (3007 persons). In 2009, the number of students choosing these two was nearly the same, but this has meant a significant increase by nearly 600 persons in the case of IT Engineering as compared to last year. However, the previous year had brought a radical decrease in the same field, which is a rather spectacular unevenness in the given program.

Table 2 NUMBER OF APPLICANTS BY PROGRAMS Counting applicants to full time Bachelor or unified programs, based on choices in the first place (The 5 most popular programs)*

Ranking 2009 (2008) Program Number of applicants (persons)
2009 (Change compared to 2008)
Change compared to 2008, per cent
(average change: +22.5%)
1 (1)
Tourism and Catering
5042 (+886)
+21,3 %
2 (2)
Economics and Management
4302 (+370)
+9,4 %
3 (4)
Engineering and Informatics
3067 (+592)
+23,9 %
4 (3)
Engineering and Informatics
3007 (-60)
-2,4 %
5 (5)
Finance and Accounting
2978 (+1069))
+56,0 %

*Application forms are currently being processed, and submission of missing documents is still continuing. Figures in the table include the data processed by 21 April 2009, when 99% of the application forms were processed.

The number of applicants to the most popular Technology programs is continuously increasing

The popularity of several programs of Technology has increased in the past years, although to no significant degree. As a result, the number of applicants to the three Technology programs in the top 20 increased in 2009, and these programs made an advance in the list. However, 'unreliability' is also observable here: while increase was greatest in the program of Electrical Engineering last year, this year has seen the greatest increase (40.1%) at the program of Mechanical Engineering (2580 persons). Meanwhile, the continuous progress of the program of Mechanical Engineering (1282 persons) is steady, as the program entering the list of the first twenty is in the 16th place by now, thanks to the increase in applicant numbers by nearly one third. Similarly to the past years, however, the program of Natural Sciences has still been unable to make its way to the list of the most popular programs.

The popularity of the fields of Law and Administration, Technology and Informatics has increased significantly in Hungary

Another opportunity for comparisons is to look at all programs together by fields of study, which enables us to study more general connections. There has been a tendency for more than half of the applicants to concentrate their attention on no more than four educational fields. Every fifth applicant (22.5%) has chosen a program in Economics in the first place. Programs of Technology and the Humanities enjoy a similar popularity (15.7% and 11.6%), although the priority of education in Technology over education in the Humanities has been continuously increasing in the past few years. The general increase in applicant numbers experienced this year has not affected all the educational fields in the same degree. In the unified list, a higher than average increase (+33.1%) has been seen in Technological education, which has taken second place for years now. An even higher increase (54.2%) has been seen in the educational field of Law and Administration, which started to decline slightly during the past years, but seems to attract a high number of students again. Even if only slightly, the increase in popularity of the fields of Informatics (29.3%), the Natural Sciences (27.4%), Pedagogy (26.5%) and Art Mediation (26.0%) has been above average.

The article is based on a detailed analysis prepared by István Fábri.