HISTORY - Est. 1865

The University of Theatre and Film Arts is the only higher education institution in the country with university status that offers degrees exclusively for future theatre, film and television professionals. However, as many other higher education institutions, private schools and studios offer opportunities for young people interested in theatre, film, television, video and media, the University of Theatre and Film Arts aims to provide the highest quality educational conditions and programmes in all aspects. The mission of the University is to prepare students to acquire, apply and develop knowledge of theatre and film culture, to create artistic works, to achieve new professional results and to cultivate theatre and film arts.

The University organises its own theatre performances, educational films, television and video programmes. The films of the university students are often awarded prizes at international festivals. The most important indicator of achievement is that the graduate students are at the forefront of their artistic fields. Most of the Hungarian theatre, film and television artists who have achieved national and international success and recognition have received their professional education and artistic inspiration here.

On 2 January 1865, institutional Hungarian-language theatre education began, after Ferenc Joseph I. ordered the establishment of a Theatre School on 10 May 1863, and provided considerable financial resources for this purpose. Over the 157 years, the school became a university with more than a dozen courses to meet the educational needs of theatre, film and television professionals. The first 30 years of theatre art education was marked by the work of the director of the National Theatre, Ede Paulay.

The school was opened on 2 January 1865 in three small rooms of a second-floor apartment at 16 Újvilág (now Semmelweis) Street. In this small apartment, the Hungarian Acting School opened on 2 January 1865 at 11 a.m. The first institution for the training of professional actors was born and began its continuous work.

In 1885 the school was renamed to National School of Acting, in 1887 it was merged with the Academy of Music. In 1893, the National Royal Hungarian School of Music and Drama was separated again. After Paulay’s death, Dr. Antal Váradi continued the ideas of his predecessor. Váradi’s main achievement was that in 1905 the Academy moved to a permanent home at 21 Rákóczi út, where theatre education is still provided today. In the 133 days of the Soviet Republic, proclaimed in 1919, plans were made to transform the Academy into a college, which, although not accomplished, but formed the basis of the institutional reform of 1945.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Academy’s profile was defined by the most influential director, Sándor Hevesi.  The reform – introduced from the 1929-30 academic year – was based on the principles specified in Hevesi’s two books. The emphasis in actor training was on naturalism, empathy, emotion, and formal diversity.

introduced from the 1929-30 academic year – was based on the principles specified in Hevesi’s two books. The emphasis in actor training was on naturalism, empathy, emotion, and formal diversity.

Hevesi’s spirit was continued by the outstanding actor of the National Theatre, Árpád Ódry, who was a teacher at the Academy from 1929 and its director from 1930-1937. During the first years of his leadership, the world economic crisis hit the Academy, which had a major impact on the teaching conditions and the financial situation of students as well. Despite this, Ódry introduced numerous innovations: actors were also taught the encyclopaedia of stagecraft introduced for directors. In order to expand individual repertoires and to facilitate the development of roles, tutoring was introduced, theoretical subjects were concentrated and a one-year film acting class was established in the 1932/33 academic year. Later, film acting became a regular course.

In 1944, when Hungary became a scene of the war, the education was suspended. In 1945, after the end of the World War, Ferenc Hont was commissioned to create the conditions for education and to raise the institution to the status of a College. Hont developed an ambitious concept for training stage directors, film directors, cinematographers, dance directors, dramaturgs and theatre theorists. In 1945, in a shattered Budapest, companies began to perform again and the Academy opened its doors.

From 1 January 1948, the institution officially became the College of Theatre and Film Arts. In 1949, in the beginning of the academic year, the college was nationalised. Ferenc Hont was removed from the head of the college and replaced by a politically reliable cadre, Lajos Bányai, the institution’s physical education teacher. All subjects were taught according to the Stanislavsky system, some of the theoretical subjects were replaced by ideological ones, and the practical training was not given sufficient emphasis. At the same time, numerous excellent teachers began to teach at the College: the film directing course was presented by Géza Radványi; György Illés had been educating for nearly half a century the world-renowned artists whose achievements are the hallmark of the Hungarian school of cinematography; actors were taught by the excellent director of the National Theatre, the great teacher Endre Gellért; directors were taught by the director of the National, Tamás Major; dramaturgy classes were led by the writer Gyula Háy.

The 1956 revolution did not cause a radical change in the education. Zsuzsa Simon (1950-1956) was succeeded as Director by Magda Olty (1957-1961). In 1958, the training stage named after the legendary teacher of the 1930s, Árpád Ódry, was opened.

The training of actors and theatre directors in the sixties and seventies was also provided by a series of outstanding masters. First and foremost, Kálmán Nádasdy, who was the chief director and leader of the Hungarian State Opera House and director of the National Theatre, and who taught generations from 1950. Nádasdy was the rector of the college for a decade from 1964. Under his administration, the college became a university-like institution in 1971, the year in which new courses were launched: theatre theory, television directing and cinematography. His leadership integrated the teaching staff, which consisted of the most outstanding directors of that time – Zoltán Várkonyi, Tamás Major, Ottó Ádám, László Vámos, Géza Pártos, etc.

Between 1974-79 Zoltán Várkonyi, the director of the Vígszínház, owned the post of rector, who created the technical basis for the education of television professionals.

After the political regime change of 1989-1990, under the rectorship of László Babarczy, the main departments of acting and directing were merged, the department of theory was created, ideological subjects were deleted.

From 1994 to 2001, Péter Huszti, actor-director and professor, held the post of rector. One of his first measures was to reform the practice of entrance examinations, whereby candidates participated in a one-week long preparation session in the third round under the guidance of their future head of department. Huszti has done a lot to broaden the institution’s international relations. On the one hand, he has organised international workshops with colleges and students from all over the world, and on the other, he has made educational cooperations between theatre colleges in neighbouring countries. It was during his rectorship that the biannual international workshops for cinematographers were established. In 1995, Sándor Simó began teaching puppeteers. In 1996, he started a reform of the education of filmmakers, taking advantage of the digital technology. In 1997, the Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA) school for theatre and for film was launched.

In 2020 The University of Theatre and Film Arts was transformed into a private university under Act LXXII of 2020, from 1 September 2020, and the University was established as a foundation-maintained private university under the auspices of the Foundation for Theatre and Film Arts.

The area of the Uránia building at 21 Rákóczi út, Budapest, used by the University has undergone a high-quality renovation. The building operated by Uránia National Film Theatre Kft (Uránia National Film Theatre) was shared with the University, where special rehearsal rooms and theatre space were created.

The University took over the former Mészáros street building of Duna TV, which was renovated, and the Zsigmond Vilmos Institute of Cinematography moved there.