CEU Opens 29th Academic Year

CEU formally began its 2019/20 Academic Year on September 13, welcoming students, faculty, staff and distinguished guests with an Opening Ceremony at CEU’s Budapest campus. The event was held in the spirit of free inquiry, diversity, and open society that are the hallmarks of CEU.

Rector and President Michael Ignatieff welcomed close to 650 new students from more than 80 countries to the community of 1,300 students, hundreds of staff and faculty, and nearly 17,000 alumni worldwide.

The 2019/20 academic year is a year of transition for CEU, seeing first-year students spending time in both Vienna and Budapest. In the fall term, more than 300 U.S. degree students will have the opportunity to study in Vienna. The first cohort of Vienna-based students will begin their classes in Quellenstrasse on September 30.

Provost of Central European University Liviu Matei greeted the community first, stressing that this year will see students studying both in Vienna and Budapest, referencing Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities. “We, members of the administration, faculty, and staff, can promise you, our incoming students, that we will try our best to make sure that yours will be the best of times, and not the worst of times, in Budapest and in Vienna. We can certainly guarantee that this will be a time of hope and not a time of despair.”

Pro-Rector Zsolt Enyedi welcomed the community in Hungarian. "Every university has values. We, for example, believe that students and professors should not be at the mercy of political campaigns. We believe that the decision about what kind of degrees can be issued in a country should be made by the professional organizations of higher education and not politicians” Enyedi said.

"Sometimes you need to pay a big price for this way of thinking, but we cannot complain, because we have been presented not only with these hardships but new opportunities as well. We will be able to prove in the next years that despite the challenges, it is possible to remain one of the best universities in Europe" he said.

"You are joining a community bonded together by our battle to remain in Budapest as a free institution. We will never abandon Budapest. We will continue to be a beacon of freedom in this city. We will continue to be an international symbol of academic freedom and free inquiry" said President and Rector Michael Ignatieff in his welcoming remarks.

“CEU is not here to teach you a set of liberal or progressive clichés or confirm your fashionable opinions, but to teach you that there IS such a thing as truth. There is such a thing as knowledge. And that is acquired through mastery of a discipline. In a world of propaganda, lies and organized deception, there is no power compared to truth” the President-Rector added.

Ignatieff’s address was followed by remarks from continuing student Ameni Mehrez, PhD candidate at the Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations.

"In CEU, I found an ideal location combining academic excellence and independent, critical thinking, a melting pot of people and free minds and an open, tolerant, and friendly learning environment. No matter who you are or where you come from, your voice will always be heard here, and you’ll always have a place at CEU" Mehrez said.

Mehrez was followed by incoming student Tamar Giorgobiani, an MA student at the Department of International Relations. "To put the academic perks aside, the thing I cherish the most is the student-oriented approach of CEU and that the people from the university and from my department have been unbelievably understanding and humane" Giorgobiani said.

Representing CEU's faculty, Professor Laszlo Pinter, Head of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, addressed the incoming students. 

"You will need to construct, challenge and defend arguments more vigorously than perhaps any time before. You will dig deeper and question not only what we know, but how we know what we think we know." Professor Pinter said, who finished his speech with a quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

At the opening ceremony, Hungarian cellist Tamas Zetenyi performed Gyorgy Ligeti’s Hora Lunga.

CEU Faculty were recognized for their excellence in research and teaching:

Assistant Professor Hyaesin Yoon from the Department of  Gender Studies and Professor Carsten Schneider from the Department of Political Science have been selected as the recipients of the 2019 CEU Distinguished Teaching Award. The annual award recognizes CEU faculty members for outstanding teaching, linked with the mission and institutional ambitions of CEU.

Professor Constantin Iordachi from the Department of History is the winner of the 2019 CEU Award for Outstanding Research.

The European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities was also presented in the opening ceremony:

CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff recognized Dr. Georgina Blakeley, the winner of the 2019 European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities, for her former role as Director of Teaching and Deputy Head of School at the Open University (OU). The award is given by Central European University (CEU) and accompanied by the €5,000 Diener Prize. The Diener Prize is made possible by a generous gift from Steven and Linda Diener in memory of Ilona Diener. For further information on the award and past winners, visit here.

Blakeley’s “passion for teaching has always found expression in widening access to higher education,” as noted in her personal statement. She joined the Open University in 2006 “drawn by its mission of social justice and its aim of providing education opportunities to all regardless of background.”

The European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities was initiated in 2011 by CEU Provost and Pro-Rector Liviu Matei, to mark CEU’s 20th anniversary. 

About CEU’s Transition Year

This academic year all incoming students will have the opportunity to study both at CEU’s new Vienna campus and at CEU’s Budapest campus (where they will work alongside continuing students). Students will be based in one location for a full term, rather than commuting weekly.

After the Transition Year, CEU’s U.S. degree activity will be based in Vienna. There may be some aspects of some programs that will take place in the Budapest facilities and this will be decided on a program-by-program basis.

CEU is accredited in Hungary until the end of 2022 but is determined to maintain academic and public activities on its campus in Budapest thereafter. Some key research activities will remain in Budapest, together with the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA), a valuable resource, not only for the city but for the whole region.