European Funding Consortium Establishes Groundbreaking €5 Million Roma In European Societies Initiative at CEU

Danish grantmaker THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS has awarded a grant of €1,997,500 (14,981,250 Danish Kroner), matched by the Open Society Foundations’ Roma Initiatives Office (RIO) and the Roma Education Fund (REF), to establish the “Roma in European Societies” initiative at Central European University (CEU). The first of its kind in higher education, this collaborative initiative will support efforts to improve the situation of Roma in all sectors at local, national, and regional levels through teaching and research, leadership development, and community outreach. CEU and other funders are also investing an additional €1 million over a six year period.

Welcoming the opportunity to launch this long-planned initiative, CEU President and Rector John Shattuck noted that with leadership from THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS, this wholly European consortium “leverages CEU’s unique policy-oriented academic perspective and builds upon the University’s considerable strength in promoting Roma opportunity and achievement in higher education.” The ambitious multi-year venture will help develop leaders who will work to create effective policies that support Roma advancement; guide successful national, regional, and municipal integration efforts; and educate the next generation of Roma thinkers, practitioners, and leaders.

A new Chair in Roma Studies, for which a search is currently underway, will oversee this entrepreneurial initiative and facilitate engagement between partner universities, government entities, civil society organizations, and the business community, with the aim of strengthening global networks of researchers and advocates dedicated to Roma advancement and inclusion.

“This initiative has the potential to shift the landscape for Roma in Europe, serving as a European hub for integration excellence and supporting greater societal well-being and increased economic growth,” said Jens-Jørgen Pedersen, THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS head of programme, on a visit to CEU to confer the grant.

The Roma in European Societies initiative builds on the track record of CEU’s Roma Access Programs (RAP), which for the past 11 years has focused on ensuring equal access to higher education for Roma. RAP, which has garnered support from each of the consortium funders as well as others, has graduated more than 220 students; more than half have continued their educational careers to pursue graduate degrees (both MAs and PhDs), including a Fulbright and two Erasmus Mundus scholars. RAP graduates have taken positions with, among others, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the Decade of Roma Inclusion Secretariat, the World Bank, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the Roma Education Fund.

“I cannot emphasize enough the relevance of joint action in accelerating access to practical opportunities which will be fostered by the hub being created at CEU,” said REF Chairman Andrzej Mirga. Building on REF’s work in 16 countries, this collective initiative will not only create a clear path to tertiary education for young Roma, but it will also include career-preparedness components that help young Roma hone their skills to achieve their academic and professional potential.

“We at RIO are proud to be an actively engaged partner of CEU in this initiative, not only a donor,” said Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Roma Initiatives Office. This expansion of CEU’s commitment to Roma empowerment is a “natural outgrowth of work we have been pioneering together with the CEU over the past decade. This new initiative complements our wider work to support stronger leadership and voices among Roma as well as the effort to establish the European Roma Institute this spring together with the Council of Europe and the Alliance for European Roma Institute.”

In line with CEU’s open society mission and commitment to equality and social justice, this consortium with THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS, RIO and REF “connects daily realities with high level academic work and advanced scholarship, ensuring the practical relevance of efforts to advance the cause of Roma in Europe,” said CEU Provost and Pro-Rector Liviu Matei. “In this way, we can contribute – together – to inclusive stability and prosperity across the continent.”


Pictured in photo

Back row: Andrzej Mirga (REF), John Shattuck (CEU), Zeljko Jovanovic (RIO), Jens Joergen Pedersen (THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS).
Front row: Nadir Redzepi (REF), Kinga Rethy (RIO), Trisha Tanner (CEU), Tara Stone Medina (CEU), Liviu Matei (CEU)