Central European University, an institution founded in 1991 in Budapest, Hungary, by financier and philanthropist George Soros, has announced a €750 million ($829.63 million) commitment from the Open Society Foundations.
Announced at a ceremony to mark the opening of CEU's new campus in Vienna — where it relocated following a crackdown by the Hungarian government on foreign-funded organizations — the commitment will support the launch of the Open Society University Network. Building on an existing arrangement between CEU and Bard College and a shared network of associated colleges, universities, and other educational institutions, the network will help "turn CEU into something truly unique: a globally networked university that meets the requirements of the twenty-first century," said Soros in remarks made during the ceremony. "It will be a partnership of equals established for the mutual benefit of its members, and it will offer a new model of international cooperation."
In recent years, the Hungarian government has imposed a series of restrictions on foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations, including efforts in 2017 by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party to shut down CEU by requiring it to operate a campus in the United States, which would have been financially prohibitive, and refusing to sign an agreement allowing the university to continue to operate in Hungary. In 2018, citing "national security interests," the government advanced "Stop Soros" legislation aimed at blocking any organization from advising or representing asylum seekers and refugees without a government license.
For its part, OSF has closed its offices in Budapest and moved its international operations and staff to Berlin, although, according to Soros, it will continue to maintain a presence in the Hungarian capital. "We feel morally obligated to do so," he added, "because the people of Budapest led by the students and professors of other universities repeatedly took to the streets to demonstrate their solidarity."
(Photo credit: Central European University)