Meet the President and Rector


Born in Canada, educated at the University of Toronto and Harvard, CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff is a university professor, writer and former politician. He is a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and holds thirteen honorary degrees.

Michael Ignatieff's major publications are The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World (2017), Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics (2013), The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (2004), Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2001), The Rights Revolution (2000), Scar Tissue (1992), Isaiah Berlin (1998), and The Needs of Strangers (1984).

Between 2014 and 2016 Michael Ignatieff was Edward R. Murrow Chair of Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Between 2012 and 2015 Michael Ignatieff served as Centennial Chair at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York.

Between 2006 and 2011, Michael Ignatieff served as an MP in the Parliament of Canada and then as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Leader of the Official Opposition.

Message from Michael Ignatieff

In 1991 CEU was founded with a mission. That mission—educating free minds for a free society—is more urgent than ever. Today more than 16,000 alumni carry the values we teach—respect for knowledge and critical inquiry—into responsible positions in government, business, civil society, academic life and politics around the world. As one of the world’s most influential social sciences universities, we’ve attained global recognition for teaching and research. And with students, faculty and staff from well over a hundred countries, CEU is one of the most diverse, open and pluralistic academic communities in the world. We are proud of our path-breaking research in a range of disciplines, new initiatives in emerging fields like cognitive and network science, together with our longstanding commitments in Roma education and leadership training and our pioneering work in opening up higher education to Europe’s refugees and migrants. These are examples of the work that best serves our unique mission.

We are equally proud to stand as a beacon of academic freedom and institutional autonomy. As a community of faculty, students and staff, we believe passionately in the power of knowledge to solve society’s most pressing problems.

Our new campus is in Vienna, one of the world’s great university cities. Here we offer our world-ranked masters and doctoral programs with US accreditation to all incoming students. Our award-winning Budapest campus is home to our Hungarian engagement program (under the Határtalan tudás [Borderless Knowledge] banner), Bibo Szabadegyetem (Bibo Open University), and some of our administrative and operational units. 

CEU’s strategic plan commits the University to strengthen our masters’ and doctoral teaching, to develop a new portfolio of undergraduate programs, to build on our success as a research institution and, most exciting of all, to work with the Open Society Foundation to develop OSUN, a network of universities like ourselves devoted to furthering the open society mission.

Our founder, the philanthropist George Soros, demonstrated uncommon vision in providing the resources that enable us to accomplish our mission. Now it is up to the CEU community: its dedicated staff, world-class teachers, and adventurous alumni, to grow our resources, to manage them prudently and invest them in projects that further our mission. We want to enlarge our community of support, to reach out to philanthropists, foundations, corporations and other private donors who share our dedication to education for free minds and free spirits.

In a world of polarization and division, we must remain dedicated to the task of teaching our students that knowledge is the only sure guide to moral choice and public policy. Universities like ours cannot retreat from the world. If we remain faithful to our mission—to winnow the grain of knowledge from the chaff of ideology, partisanship, rhetoric and lies, we will be doing the university’s part to defend free and open societies. On behalf of CEU, I want to welcome you to our community and invite you to join us in our mission.

Michael Ignatieff,
President and Rector