The Open Society Institute and Central European University: Three Campuses, Three Outcomes

Source: Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)
Date: 2007
Sector: Education
Keyword: Civil society
Region: Europe

In the late 1980s, the Hungarian-born American financier George Soros, funder of the Open Society Institute, sponsored a series of seminars in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, on the future of Europe. It was at one of these seminars that the idea for an independent, international university located in Central Europe first arose.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, representatives of the governments of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary all agreed to support the fledgling institution. In April 1991 the Central European University’s Prague campus officially opened, with four projected academic departments: economics, environmental sciences, politics and sociology, and history. At the opening ceremony, Soros officially committed to funding the university for five years at $5 million per annum. Summer courses were held in Prague in July and August. Because the Hungarian government was reneging on its promise to provide a building for the Budapest campus, Soros privately rented out a building. In the fall of 1992, CEU’s Budapest campus opened, and the university reached agreement with the Polish government to establish a campus in Warsaw. Meanwhile, CEU’s relationship with the Czechoslovak government was deteriorating rapidly. . . .

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