Billionaire George Soros will pump in US$1 billion to start a global university, as announced at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. These institutions will battle the climate crisis and authoritarian governments with quality higher education.
The global education network will be built around Central European University (CEU) and Bard College. So far, Arizona State University in the US, the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, and BRAC University in Bangladesh have joined the network, which Soros described as the “most important and most enduring project of my life”.
“We’re living at a transformational moment in history. The survival of open societies is endangered, and we face an even greater crisis: climate change, which threatens the survival of our civilisation,” Soros wrote.
In his opinion, the best long-term strategy to tackle this is “education that reinforces the autonomy of the individual by cultivating critical thinking and emphasising academic freedom.”
A democratic tool
— Open Society Foundations (@OpenSociety) January 23, 2020
Having grown his wealth as a hedge fund manager, Soros’s political views and philanthropic efforts continue to keep him in the spotlight at the age of 89. Today, his former investment firm Soros Fund Management is a family office that primarily manages money for the charitable efforts at the Open Society Foundations.
On top of that, Soros is known to back progressive causes and Democratic politicians. A vocal opponent of autocracy, he has publicly called out the actions of world leaders Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump. Soros blames the US’ current “overheated economy” on Trump and criticizes Xi for his use of AI in monitoring citizens.
This billion-dollar move comes after Soros’s announcement last November that he would donate US$750 million to assist CEU in its forced relocation from Budapest to Vienna. Soros founded CEU in his birthplace, Hungary, back in 1991. It was formed with the same vision of open, democratic societies that backs his teaching and research platform Open Society University Network.
However, CEU recently lost its right to issue US-accredited diplomas in Hungary after a recent government ruling. Foreign universities in the landlocked European country may now only offer international diplomas under the condition that they have a campus in their home country. Thus, CEU is transitioning its courses and resources to Austria, which includes the most advanced social sciences library in the region.
CEU provost Liviu Matei confirms that this new global university network will focus on delivering “education and research to promote open society”. Though CEU will be a central part of this network, Matei is unaware how much of the US$1 billion donation will go to the university.
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