CEU Opens Academic Year in Vienna, Welcomes First Cohort of Undergraduate Students

September 25, 2020

September 25, 2020, Vienna - CEU formally launched its 2020/21 Academic Year on September 25, 2020, welcoming nearly 700 new students from 90 countries to the university. They join more than 600 current students, and almost 18.000 alumni worldwide, all part of the global CEU community. The virtual Opening Ceremony is available at https://youtu.be/gVrJHVBM2is.

With the university preparing to mark its 30th anniversary in 2021, it is particularly apt that CEU welcomes its first-ever undergraduate cohort of students to its new home in Vienna.

In his Presidential remarks, CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff addressed the community with his vision for a university that is above all else, together:

“What unites us is the curiosity and passion to share knowledge and create new knowledge for the future in the humanities and social sciences… and the mixture of these that makes CEU so unique.”

Referring to the Hungarian government actions that lead to the University’s move across a national border, the President and Rector continued with a warning:

“The attack upon us in 2017 was part of a larger pattern of systematic attack on all independent academic and cultural institutions in Hungary: the Academy of Sciences, and now the University of Theatre and Film Arts, bravely defended by students barricaded inside. Our Senate has voted a motion in support. Now we know that what happened to us was just the beginning. And it will not end there.”     

Following this, the President and Rector reaffirmed CEU’s belief in open society and its values, increasingly besieged worldwide:

“A pandemic is a radical test for open society. All around us, open societies are closing, using public health to limit freedoms we took for granted. All around us, leaders are challenging the evidence of science and the very basis of fact-based public policy. The values we believe in here—open public debate based on a consensus about the facts—are being challenged as never before.  This isn’t a moment to circle the wagons and crouch in a defensive posture. It’s a moment for universities everywhere, especially this one, to question received wisdom about the balance between freedom and public health, and to insist that we make decisions based on the best evidence we have.”

Concluding his speech, Ignatieff ended with a series of questions for the audience, a provocation to act as members of a university should:

“We’re living a drastic experiment in the reduction of freedom. Have we got the balance right? Are we going too far? Can we trust the political authorities who are making these decisions? Can we trust the scientists whose research forms the basis of these conclusions? These are questions that an open society needs to ask, questions a university needs to bring into its classrooms, its research labs, its library. I hope this year, whatever happens, we will vindicate what a university is for: we create the free space in which knowledge flourishes, minds come alive and freedom becomes the value we live by.”

Following remarks from the Master of Ceremonies Provost Liviu Matei and Pro-Rector Agnes Batory, Dean of Undergraduate Students Dorit Geva noted that when the university decided to introduce a new undergraduate offer, its  leadership "saw in this an opportunity for rebirth, a repurposing of our mission in our new home. Far from the headlines, a group of professors huddled together, and over the course of two years planned and made these programs happen. It was a challenging and exhilarating labor of love, a truly a collective effort.”

Notes for Editors

CEU Teaching

As with most other higher education institutions, CEU begins its 2020/21 Academic Year with on-campus and online teaching as a result of the pandemic. Beginning September 28, CEU will offer hybrid teaching to its students who are physically in Vienna as well as to those starting the year online. Serving the internal CEU community, the CEU Library will operate at both campuses as well as offer online access to much of its catalogue. It is currently closed to external members as a result of the Covid-19 situation. From this academic year onwards, the university will offer the following BA courses: Culture, Politics and Society (CPS)Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), and Quantitative Social Sciences (QSS). For all courses, see https://www.ceu.edu/academics.

CEU in Hungary

CEU is determined to maintain world-class research and public engagement activities on its campus in Budapest thereafter. At a time when the academy is ever-increasingly under attack in Hungary, CEU’s pledge to act as a beacon to academic freedom in Budapest is of great import, symbolic as well as actual.

The CEU Democracy Institute will be providing a locus for the university’s research activities remaining in Budapest—including the Centre for Media and Democracy Studies (CMDS)—together with the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) and the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA), a valuable resource, not only for the city but for the whole region. The university’s Borderless Knowledge Lecture Series (“Határtalan tudás”) will continue, alongside its acclaimed Bibo Istvan Szabadegyetem (István Bibó Free University) programs. Both are offered to the public free of charge, in Hungarian, and reflects CEU’s mission to promote the values of an open society.

Award-winners announced during the ceremony

Sarah Morton (University College Dublin) and Donata Romizi (University of Vienna) for the 2020 European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities;
Jozsef Laszlovszky, Professor at the Department of Medieval Studies, and Erzsebet Strausz, Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, joint winners of the 2020 CEU Distinguished Teaching Award; and Jean-Louis Fabiani, Professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, winner the 2020 CEU Award for Outstanding Research.