Davos, Switzerland – George Soros announced today that he is creating a new university network to better prepare students for current and future global challenges. He is endowing the network with one billion dollars ($1 billion) and asking other philanthropists to contribute.
The network, which will operate throughout the world, is named the Open Society University Network (OSUN). It will integrate teaching and research across higher education institutions worldwide. It will offer simultaneously taught network courses and joint degree programs and regularly bring students and faculty from different countries together with in-person and online discussions. The network aims to reach the students who need it the most and to promote the values of open society – including free expression and diversity of beliefs.
OSUN will seek to promote rigorous education and reach institutions in need of international partners, as well as neglected populations, such as refugees, incarcerated people, the Roma and other displaced groups. OSUN, with the help of its allies, is ready to start a massive “scholars at risk” program, merging a large number of academically excellent but politically endangered scholars into this new global network.
Already, OSUN is connecting institutions of higher learning and is holding networked courses that unite students and faculty from several universities located in different parts of the world in the classroom, sharing faculty and conducting joint research projects in which people from many universities collaborate.
Mr. Soros said: “I believe our best hope lies in access to an education that reinforces the autonomy of the individual by cultivating critical thinking and emphasizing academic freedom. I consider the Open Society University Network to be the most important and enduring project of my life and I should like to see it implemented while I am still around”.
Mr. Soros, who has given more than $32 billion over the past 30 years to education and social justice causes, added. “We are looking for farsighted partner institutions who feel a responsibility for the future of our civilization, people who are inspired by the goals of OSUN and want to participate in its realization.”
The Central European University (CEU), which Soros founded, and Bard College will form the core of the new network. They will partner with Arizona State University, a world leader in distance learning, and other institutions around the globe, such as the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan and BRAC University in Bangladesh.
“We can’t build a global network on our own,” said Mr Soros. “I hope that those who share this vision will join us in making it a reality.
Leon Botstein, president of Bard College who will serve as chancellor of OSUN, said: “OSUN is the most transformative initiative in higher education I have witnessed in my career. It promises robust and diverse partnerships, and innovation extending critical inquiry, research, and scholarship on an international scale. I want to express my gratitude to Mr. Soros and the Open Society Foundations for their vision and confidence.”