The Babeş-Bolyai University (UBB—Universitatea Babeş-Bolyai) in Cluj-Napoca is the largest university in Romania. With almost 50,000 students, the university offers 105 specialisations, of which there are 98 in Romanian, 52 in Hungarian, 13 in German, and 4 in English. The university was named after two prominent Transylvanian scientists, the Romanian scientist Victor Babeş and the Hungarian mathematician János Bolyai.
In 1872, the authorities established a university in Kolozsvár (Kolozsvári Tudományegyetem) with teaching in Hungarian, except for the Romanian language and literature section. In 1881 the university was renamed Franz Joseph University after the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph. On May 12, 1919, after the Union of Transylvania with Romania, the Romanian University of Cluj was set up. King Ferdinand proclaimed the university open on February 1, 1920, while its Hungarian section moved to Szeged.
In 1940, as a result of the Second Vienna Award, the city was returned to Hungary and the Hungarian university was reinstated there. After World War II, once the Second Vienna Award was abrogated, a Romanian university called Babeş was established. The Hungarian University of Cluj took the name Bolyai once it returned.
The two universities, the Romanian Babeş University and the Hungarian Bolyai University, were forced to merge in 1959 forming the "Babeş-Bolyai" University, with Romanian and Hungarian teaching languages. This operation, that deeply undermined the interests of the Hungarian community in Transylvania and led to the suicide of several Hungarian professors, was orchestrated by Nicolae Ceausescu, the former Romanian dictator, and Ion Iliescu, a recent Romanian president. Later on, under the communist regime, the studies in Hungarian were gradually reduced. After 1989, the Hungarian language education was significantly expanded by increasing the number of specialisations in Hungarian. Also specialisations taught in German and English have been introduced.
The university is now the most diversified (in terms of specialisations) and the most complex higher education institution in Romania.
The university has 21 faculties and over 1,700 faculty members. The University offers bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees, along with advanced postgraduate studies.
The university is located in an ethnically diverse area and this is very well illustrated in its structure: 19 of the 21 faculties provide a Romanian curriculum; 17 of them provide a Hungarian curriculum; 9 of them provide a German curriculum and 2 of them provide an English curriculum. The Faculty of Roman Catholic Theology and the Faculty of Protestant Theology provide courses only in Hungarian. Graduate schools offer the same multilingual structure. The Hungarian and German minorities are also very well represented in the Professors' Council and the University Senate.
Babeş-Bolyai University has more than 45,000 students. The structure of the student body is composed out of 3,000 Ph.D. students, 500 international students, 4,300 secondary education teachers, and 38,000 undergraduate. Here is the list of the faculties, along with the languages in which their courses are taught—(RO-Romanian, HU-Hungarian, DE-German, EN-English).
On 22 February 2006 the separation issue was discussed in the Senate of the University. All of the Senate members (Hungarians, Germans and Romanians) voted against the ethnic separation of the university, with no votes for the separation being recorded.
After the absolute vote in the Senate the two lecturers continued the campaign for separation, with several public statements against the university. As a result, they received a formal oral disciplinary warning, on 10 July 2006. After ignoring it, they received a first written disciplinary warning, and on 13 November 2006 a final written disciplinary warning from the Senate. The warning was based on two main accusations: persistent absences from lectures, and public campaign and statements against the university.
On 22 November 2006 the two lecturers put up a series of signs including "Information" and "No smoking" in Hungarian alongside those ones in Romanian. Hantz and Kovács said they acted upon a decree permitting the use of multilingual signs, which had been issued by the university but not enforced, and official claims that the university is a multicultural institution with three working languages (Romanian, German and Hungarian).
In November 2006, Hantz and Kovács were sacked by the university. As a consequence of their controversial actions actions and the warnings they received, on 27 November 2006, the Senate voted for exclusion of the two lecturers, with 72 for (from Hungarian and Romanian members) and 9 against (from 2 Romanian and 7 Hungarian members) votes. The exclusion was not an ethnic based disciplinary action, because all German and Jewish members and the majority of the Hungarian and Romanian members voted for the exclusion.
In a petition addressed to European and Romanian leaders, Imre Kertész, who is a Jewish Hungarian author, Holocaust concentration camp survivor, and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, requested the opening of a separate Hungarian-language (Magyar) university to serve the 1.5 million-strong Hungarian minority of Romania. In an article published on 22 February 2006 by the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, "Ceauşescu's Institute", Kertész launched an attack against the Babeş-Bolyai University, calling the university "a relic of the national-socialist era".
In spite of various protests, the resignation out of solidarity by several Hungarian-speaking university staff, and a call by 24 Hungarian MEPs for the reinstatement of the lecturers in the weeks after the incident, the lecturers remained unemployed. The parties in the Hungarian Parliament asked the university to reinstate the two professors and respect the rights of the Hungarian minority. The presidents of the five parties represented in the Hungarian parliament signed a statement that read as follows:
Istvan Hiller, Education Minister of Hungary, also wrote to his Romanian counterpart Mihail Hărdău, asking for his help on the issue. The case has also been put forward in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Göran Lindblad, from the Swedish European People’s Party, along with 24 signatories from 19 European countries, presented a motion for a resolution on the alleged breaching of the 1994 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by the Romanian Government.