Message from the Rector

July 31, 2021

Dear CEU Community: Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni and
our valued supporters:

Today’s my last day as Rector. When Shalini Randeria takes over in August, I hope you’ll give her the same support you gave me. Already I’ve told her to get ready for plenty of frank advice and critical suggestions!

Shalini will become Rector at a moment of hope and opportunity: we plan to resume on-campus teaching in September. She’ll be working with our architects through the design phase of our exciting new Otto Wagner campus. Students from over 120 countries will be joining us in the fall. Under Shalini’s leadership I’m sure we’ll make further strides towards our goal of making CEU the most demanding, exciting, and innovative English language university in the social sciences and humanities in Europe.

For me, it’s a moment to look back over the ground we’ve covered over the past five years. We went through painful times together: forced expulsion, relocation to a new home and the constant struggle to stay safe during the pandemic. We can feel proud of our resilience, but let’s not pretend our ordeal did not do us damage. The ties that link us together were frayed. Shalini’s challenge—our challenge—will be to rebuild the ONE CEU feeling that makes us unique.

Despite all the difficult moments, we have so much to celebrate. We established three new undergraduate degrees and several dynamic new professional programs. We’ve strengthened our teaching and research across the board, especially in the quantitative social sciences. Our faculty have won European research awards at a rate that puts us in the front rank of European social science research. We are playing a key role in Civica, a research and teaching consortium of the leading social science universities in Europe. We’re founding partners of the Open Society University Network. We set up the Democracy Institute. We reached out to the wider community with four popular lecture series: Borderless Knowledge, Rethinking Open Society, Reasons for Hope and the Steinhof legacy. We did well in international rankings. Three of our program areas rank in the top 40 in the world. CEU Press is pioneering open access publishing. Our Library and IT systems put the world’s research at our fingertips. We’ve strengthened our financial position and renewed our strategic direction through to 2025. Our administrative staff handled the extraordinary challenge of our move with professionalism under pressure. We’ve begun raising substantial revenue from tuition, and this has enabled us to increase our assistance to needy and deserving students. Thanks to this balanced approach to student aid, we’re able welcome to Vienna the most vibrantly diverse student body of any graduate institution in Europe.

I’m also delighted that, over the past five years, departments and their hard-working search committees managed to hire substantial numbers of new faculty and carry out the most substantial renewal of our faculty since the founding of the university in 1991. In the process, we have increased the number of women in most departments. We have some way to go still but we’ve started on a path that I hope will lead one day to a faculty as richly diverse as our student body.

Most of all, we stood up and fought together to defend our CEU and the principle of academic freedom and university autonomy. We’ve earned the respect and admiration of colleagues around the world. In the years ahead we will maintain our leadership as outspoken champions of academic freedom and we must continue to call for the release and pardon of a member of our community—Ahmed Samir Santawy—who remains in prison, on hunger strike, because he dared to express opinions critical of his government.

We achieved a great deal together in the past five years. I’m grateful to the Senate, the Academic Forum, the Board of Trustees, our active alumni community, the generous donors who support our work and above all the faculty, staff and students who make this such a compelling community.

Please give my successor the same welcome and critical support you gave me. After a short break I go back into the classroom in January as a professor of history. Until then, farewell—and thank you.

Michael Ignatieff


image credits: CEU / Daniel Vegel; IWM / Stefanie Moshammer