Hungary's president signs law that could oust Soros-founded college

People protest against the bill that would undermine Central European University, a liberal graduate school of social sciences founded by US financier George Soros in Budapest, Hungary, April 9, 2017.

Demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against the amendment of the higher education law that could force a Budapest university founded by billionaire American philanthropist George Soros to close, in front of the Ministry of Human Resources, in Budapest, Sunday, April 9, 2017. The law, which was rushed through parliament in less than a week, would require the CEU to change its name and open a campus in the US.

The main target is believed to be the Central European University (CEU) and its founder, George Soros.

About 60,000 people attended the rally in central Budapest, Index news website cited organisers as saying.

"We don't want to resort to violence, but you can't stop us", one protester said through a megaphone.

It also bans universities outside the European Union from awarding Hungarian diplomas without an agreement between national governments - in this case, the US.

The legislation has attracted widespread criticism overseas, including from Washington, Brussels and university professors - more than 900 academics around the world, including 18 Nobel prize-winning economists, have signed an open letter calling for the proposal to be withdrawn.

Unlike last Sunday's protest, it was not just students who were out in the street - there were also lots of families, with some middle-aged and some elderly people in the crowd.

The CEU said Tuesday it would contest the constitutionality of the bill.

BBC Budapest correspondent Nick Thorpe says it was probably the biggest anti-government protest in Budapest since Mr Orban came to power seven years ago.

OPINION: Why is Hungary trying to shut down a university?

The governments of the United States and Germany have criticized the move to close the university.

It is the latest battle declared by the right-wing Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, against progressive liberalism.

But in many countries that host American universities there are groups who would like to close them down, either due to their liberal, democratic or secular ideas, U.S. links, or both.

"These people at the top, they don't realise that we don't live in Russian Federation, but in Hungary!" a protester, 23-year-old IT expert Viktor Szakal, told the AFP news agency.

The government has been tightening up on dissent in other ways as well, proposing tighter rules on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which will have to register with authorities if they have a yearly foreign income of 7.2 million forints ($25,000).

  • Tracy Ferguson