CEU “says goodbye” to its spiritual home, awards Open Society Prize to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz

June 25, 2019

Budapest, June 25, 2019 – 599 students received their diplomas at Central European University’s (CEU) Graduation Ceremony, held at the Palace of Arts in Budapest on June 24, 2019. The university conferred 60 doctoral degrees, 486 master’s degrees and 13 non-degree certificates on its 28th graduating class. All now join CEU's alumni body, numbering 16,000, in 136 countries.

In his opening remarks, CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff highlighted that this year’s graduates are the last CEU cohort to graduate in Budapest. Preceded by the same Hungarian folksongs performed by Bela Bartok at his final concert in his native Budapest in 1940 before leaving for exile in the United States, President and Rector Michael Ignatieff called the moment ‘bittersweet’, simultaneously an end and a new beginning. Looking out at almost 600 CEU graduands, the Class of 2019, he observed: “We exist to help you create your futures.  We exist to train you in the values of freedom: responsibility for others, fearlessness in thought and action, unyielding commitment to the public good of people, community and nation.”

The President and Rector turned to CEU’s future. Speaking of the ties that have long bound CEU and Budapest, and of the university’s move to Vienna, he emphasized that the city would “remain CEU’s spiritual home”, promising that the university will maintain a vigorous presence: “You will come back here in years to come, and there will still be a CEU on Nador utca! But we are no longer allowed to issue US degrees in our home city, so we shall issue them in Vienna.”

Alexander G. Soros, Philanthropist and Deputy Chair of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) then addressed the students, a moving reminder of the days when his father and CEU Founder George Soros used to shake the hand of every graduating student.

Congratulating the gathered students, Soros also praised the whole CEU community for what it has endured over the past two years, noting that while the Hungarian government has said that CEU made a choice to leave Budapest, that is simply is not true. “CEU has been banned. And as a result, effectively expelled from Hungary. This expulsion is part of a broader campaign to crush academic freedom and other liberties.”

Soros added that CEU is not defeated. To ensure that it will flourish, not only in Vienna but around the world, he committed the OSF to recapitalizing CEU’s endowment, funding CEU for more success in the future.

At the end of the graduation ceremony, CEU President and Rector Ignatieff awarded the 2019 CEU Open Society Prize to American economist and professor Joseph E. Stiglitzof Columbia University. 

Outlining a vision of a progressive capitalism rooted in justice and freedom, Professor Stiglitz warned that 'an assault on anyone's human rights is an assault on everyone's human rights”, adding that nothing is more symbolic of an open society than a free media, and academic freedom.



1)      CEU is a graduate institution accredited in the U.S. and Hungary with 1300 master’s and doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, business, law, cognitive and network science. The university employs close to 800 staff and faculty and contributes 25 million Euros (8 billion forints) to the Hungarian economy each year in taxes, pension and health contributions, and payments to suppliers. It is Central Europe’s most successful applicant for competitive European Union research grant funding, with more than 23 million Euros awarded for the 2018-2026 period. In the 2019 QS World University Rankings by Subject CEU topped all other universities in Hungary in seven subject fields, and also ranks among the best 100 universities worldwide according to U-Multirank’s 2019-2020 World University Rankings. After more than two years of uncertainty resulting from the Hungarian government’s amendment to Act CCIV of 2011 on national higher education (i.e. lex CEU), and its refusal to recognize that CEU has taken all steps to comply with the new legislation, the university will open another campus in Vienna, Austria in September 2019 and begin moving all degree-related activities there over the following academic year.

2)      Joseph E. Stiglitz received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 and is known for his pioneering work on asymmetric information. The author of many influential books, including The Price of Inequality (2012), Stiglitz researches income distribution, risk, corporate governance, public policy, macroeconomics and globalization.

3)      Previous recipients of the CEU Open Society Prize include Vaclav Havel, Arpad Goncz, Tom Lantos, Bronislaw Geremek, Ricardo Lagos, Carla Del Ponte, Kofi Annan, Richard C. Holbrooke, Kristalina Georgieva, Joachim Gauck and Janos Kornai among others.