Professor Agnes Batory, incoming pro-rector for social sciences and humanities, discusses CEU’s transition to Vienna and her plans and priorities for the upcoming academic year.
As someone who has worked at CEU for a number of years, how do you envision your new role as pro-rector during a time of significant new beginnings for the university?
The Pro-Rector for Social Sciences and Humanities is one of the university’s senior academic officers, with responsibilities that focus on the university’s quality assurance processes. Pro-rectors are appointed by the rector from among the faculty for a fixed period of time, after which the faculty member returns to their usual duties. I feel really fortunate to take this role over from a supremely competent and collegiate person, Eva Fodor, and my plan for the first few months is simply to continue the projects she has already initiated. The coming academic year will be our first in Vienna, and I am excited to be part of the team that will shape the new CEU.
How do you plan to divide your time and establish priorities given the Budapest – Vienna split and with the Democracy Institute beginning its work in the fall?
My main responsibilities will relate to the faculty and degree programs at Quellenstrasse (CEU’s Vienna Campus); I will myself be based in Vienna. As for a "Budapest-Vienna split," I hope this will not be the case, and that we can remain – as we all very much desire – as “OneCEU’. These days, physical distance matters far less than it did even a few months ago. The pandemic has taught us all that we can have effective meetings online, from our own living rooms. Having said that, I very much want to see Quellenstrasse become a lively campus, with colleagues chatting in the corridors and students rushing to classes or enjoying a coffee in the communal areas. Of course, this depends on how the pandemic unfolds. As for the Democracy Institute, I am really pleased that CEU will continue to have a meaningful academic presence in Budapest.
How do you foresee the future of online offerings at CEU – especially considering that there may be a second COVID-19 wave?
We have spent the past months preparing to teach some – or indeed all – all of our mandatory courses online as well as in person, partly as a precaution in case there is a second wave but also to ensure that students who will arrive in Vienna after the beginning of term, for whatever reason, are able to commence their studies on time. We want to make sure that this investment is put to good use in the long term as well.
What will be your first decisions when you take up your new role?
Whatever I find in the pro-rectorate's email account marked “URGENT!” Joking aside, there will be many important decisions to make but very few that the pro-rector makes individually – quality assurance processes are run by committees, and strategic decisions are made by the senior leadership, the board and the senate.
Could you summarize your vision as pro-rector?
Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I don't have a vision with a capital V: I find visions quite dangerous in the sense that they often lead to zealotry and a tendency to reject other points of view. I have more modest plans, most of which involve making CEU's academic machinery work more efficiently and transparently. I would like to see the workload spread more equally among the faculty. I would also like us to improve our standing in research as well as teaching – we have world-class researchers and we should do better in showcasing their work. And it should go without saying that I want to see the new CEU become even more attractive to the best and brightest students from all over the world.
As director of the Erasmus Mundus Masters Program in Public Policy, how do you see the role of CEU in the European Union?
One of CEU's strengths has always been our dual identity – we are both an American and a European university, and this will not change when our U.S degree teaching moves fully to Austria. Erasmus Mundus programs are but one of the many great opportunities supported by the EU; we also have prestigious research grants, innovative university networks such as the recently formed CIVICA, and some of our best students come from EU countries. It is crucial that we continue to take advantage of these opportunities, and I am confident that we will be able to do so from both Vienna and Budapest.