Bethlen Gábor Kollégium

The Coalition accepts donations to support Két Fűzfa Egyesület’s goal of establishing an endowment fund which will support the Bethlen Gábor Kollégium (BGK) of Nagyenyed (Aiud), Romania, through donations and sponsorships.  This short video is on the activities of the BGK.



Brief history of Bethlen Gábor Kollégium

Nagyenyed (Aiud), Romania



The Kollégium was founded in 1622 in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), Transylvania, by Lord Gábor Bethlen. At the time, Transylvania was Hungarian principality which paid tribute to the Ottoman Empire, but was ruled by Hungarian noblemen who presided over a period of cultural flourishing and religious tolerance.

Prince Bethlen’s school, called the Academicum Collegium Gymnasium Illustre, was a modern institution providing higher education in theology, philosophy and linguistics. Prince Bethlen gathered a globally educated cadre of teachers to ensure educational excellence. One school’s most famous 17th century alumni was the renowned scholar János Apáczai Csere, who later taught at the school himself.

In 1658, after Turkish invaders ransacked the Kollégium, the pupils fled to Kolozsvár (Cluj).


Destruction and Rebuilding

In 1662, Prince Mihaly Apafi I moved the school to Nagyenyed (Aiud). A few years later, in 1704, the city and school were devastated during clashes related to the Rákóczi-led Hungarian uprising against Habsburg rule. These events provide the background to Mór Jókai’s novel „A nagyenyedi két fűzfa” (Two Willows in Nagyenyed).

Following the school’s destruction, its rector Ferenc Pápai Párzi requested aid from the King of England. English royal donations helped fund the school’s reconstruction between 1720 and 1743. Meanwhile, the school came under the supervision of the Hungarian Reformed Church.

Nagyenyed and the school were again destroyed during the 1848-49 revolution, this time by Romanian troops. The school was rebuilt again. By the end of the 19th century, the school had developed into a highly renowned secondary boarding school.

In 1920, following the First World War, Transylvania – including Nagyenyed – was ceded from Hungary to Romania. In 1921, the school’s administration came under Romanian state control, while retaining its Hungarian Protestant leadership. The school lost most of its property following a Romanian land reform, and the school began another battle for survival. In 1922, the school celebrated its 300th anniversary, and in the following years established both an agricultural economics division and a Hungarian teacher-training school attached to a grammar school.

In 1948, with the advent of Communist rule in Romania, a state decree nationalized all school property, and the Kollégium lost not only its property, but also its connection to the Hungarian Reformed church. In the following decades, the Kollégium continued to operate under various names. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the dictatorship under Nicolae Ceausescu increased its campaign of forced assimilation of the 2.5 million-strong ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania. A key policy of this campaign was to undermine and eliminate Hungarian-language education at all levels. At the Nagyenyed Kollégium, the teacher-training division was abolished in 1975. Romanian-language instruction became compulsory in 1982.

In 1990, the Romanian revolution toppled the Ceausescu dictatorship and the country began a transformation to constitutional democracy, with increased rights for the Hungarian minority and more scope for Hungarian-language education, although the return of confiscated church properties to their former owners – the historically Hungarian churches and schools – was and remains a slow process fraught with bureaucratic obstacles and political opposition.

The Kollégium in Nagyenyed reestablished its teacher-training division and the school was again named Bethlen Gábor Kollégium. In 2007, the school’s historic main building, dining hall and gymnasium were finally restored to the Hungarian Reformed Church. In 2012, the school celebrated its 390 year anniversary. And in 2016, restoration of all the historic buildings was completed.


The Bethlen Gábor Kollégium Today

Nagyenyed has a population 22,876, of whom 3,364 are ethnic Hungarians. In the region, ethnic Hungarians form a majority in only three villages: Magyarlapád, Torockószentgyörgy and Torockó. In all the other nearby settlements, Hungarians live as dispersed minorities („diaspora”).

In recent years, the school population has been around 700 students. The institution offers teaching at almost all the educational levels allowed under Romanian law. As a school operating in a region where Hungarians are in the minority, it is imperative to offer education in the Hungarian language at all levels. Apart from a general curriculum, high school students can opt to concentrate in math/IT, natural sciences, teacher training, or tourism. The school operates a kindergarten, grade school, and an adult-education division focusing on tourism.

One of the school’s main goals to slow the pace of ethnic assimilation and to preserve Hungarian language and culture. Many after-school activities and scholarship programs also serve this purpose.


Scholarship and Godparent Programs

Many students from the surrounding region opt for a local Romanian school for financial reasons. Educational expenses put a heavy financial burden on most families, because living in the diaspora usually also means a life of financial hardship. Such students can enroll at the Bethlen Gábor Kollégium only if some form of subsidy is available. The Bethlen Gábor Foundation regularly grants scholarships to poor children.

Besides these scholarships, the Godparent initiative, begun in 2009, serves a similar goal. Any sponsoring individual can pay the tuition cost of the student they choose, for the whole tuition cycle (4 years). The annual tuition cost (with accommodation and 3 meals/day) is around 600 EUR, and a personal relationship often develops between the student and his/her sponsor. The scholarship is subject to monthly review by a school committee, which tracks the student’s grades and after-school activities.


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