CEU is a unique institution: our 1,500 masters’ and doctoral students come from 117 countries, our faculty is drawn from 51, we are accredited in Hungary and the United States and our mission is to teach the values of open society: free minds, free politics and free institutions. We recently celebrated our first 25 years, and in that time we’ve attained world-class rankings in teaching and research, we’ve graduated almost 14,000 alumni who carry our values back to their home countries and we’ve opened brand new campus buildings in the historic heart of one of Europe’s greatest cities.
CEU’s mission to defend free and open societies is more urgent than ever. As President, I’ve launched the Re-Thinking Open Society Project, a series of seminars, lectures and conferences that will renew our mission in the light of the new challenges it faces in the 21st century. We are also preparing a new strategic plan to guide the University through the next five years. That plan, when completed in June 2017, will commit the University to strengthen our masters’ and doctoral teaching, to build on our success as a research institution and, most exciting of all, to work with the Open Society Foundation to develop a network of universities like ourselves devoted to furthering the open society mission.
Our founder, 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.
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 recent pioneering work in opening up higher education to Europe’s new refugees and migrants. These are examples of the work that best serves our unique mission.
In a world of polarization and division, a world where the status of facts is so deeply contested, the work of universities like ours in bringing men and women together around a shared respect for knowledge is more important than ever. 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. We must always be doing our part to help understand the problems our societies must solve if we are all to survive and prosper. We must never stop asking: what is incontestable in our understanding? How do we expand the continent of knowledge? If we truly care about knowledge, if we 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. Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef was right: all of this is hard. But nothing is more important.