Soros gives CEU €750 million as Vienna move completed

Multibillionaire announces investment at the launch of beleaguered university’s new campus

November 18, 2019
Source: CEU / Daniel Vegel

George Soros announced that he was investing an additional €750 million (£641 million) in the mission of the Central European University, as the institution opened its new campus in Vienna.

CEU, which was founded by Mr Soros, an investor and philanthropist, was forced to move to Austria in the face of long-running hostility to its presence in Budapest from Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, whose government has refused to certify its legal status or allow it to offer US-accredited degrees.

Speaking at the launch of the new campus, Mr Soros said that CEU “has steadfastly defended the principle of academic freedom against a concerted attack by the corrupt government of Viktor Orbán, who was hell-bent to destroy it”. 

“CEU’s epic struggle against a repressive regime generated worldwide support. That struggle is ongoing,” he said.

Despite moving its teaching to Vienna, Mr Soros said that the CEU, a graduate school specialising in the social sciences and humanities, would maintain a presence in Budapest. “We feel morally obligated to do so because the people of Budapest, led by the students and professors of other universities, repeatedly took to the streets to demonstrate their solidarity,” he said.

Mr Soros said that CEU and its partner institution, Bard College in New York, would establish an Open Society University Network that will “offer a new model of international cooperation” between “progressive and well-recognised universities” around the world.

The extra funding for CEU would help “realise this ambition” and reflected his confidence in the institution, he said.

CEU president Michael Ignatieff thanked Mr Soros for his support. “With one typically decisive stroke, you have guaranteed our future for years to come. We will strive to make you proud of us,” he said.

During this academic year, staff will commute between the two cities as incoming students will be studying in the both Vienna and Budapest and continuing students will complete their studies in Budapest.

From September 2020, all US degree students at CEU will based in Vienna, along with related teaching faculty and staff.

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