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BUDAPEST: Hungary’s government will stop financing gender studies university courses, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Tuesday, marking one of the first concrete steps in a cultural shift signalled last month.

Re-elected in April to a third consecutive term, right-wing nationalist Orban said in July that major cultural and intellectual changes were in the works.

Chief of staff Gergely Gulyas cited low enrolment numbers, which he said would be reason enough alone to shut down the courses, but also spelled out the government’s ideological opposition at a news conference.

“The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women. They lead their lives the way they think best, but beyond this, the Hungarian state does not wish to spend public funds on education in this area,” he said.

The move against the gender studies courses is one of the first specific such government policies. Others included a move to reduce the independence of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the allocation of public research funding.

Gender studies courses are taught at the state-run university ELTE and Central European University, which are among the top universities in Hungary.

Gulyas said those already enrolled could finish their studies but Budapest would stop financing the courses from the next academic year.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2018