Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Open Society Foundations Founder and Chair George Soros announced Thursday a $1 billion gift to start the Open Society University Network—an unprecedented defense of critical thinking and academic freedom that Soros called “the most important and enduring project of my life.”
Citing the threat posed to open society by “would-be or actual dictators” in Brazil, China, India, and the United States, Soros said that he would contribute $1 billion toward the Open Society University Network, a “truly global” initiative to preserve individual autonomy by supporting critical thinking and academic freedom. He also urged other proponents of open society to join this unique and ambitious effort.
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.
The Central European University (CEU) 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 are looking for farsighted partners who feel a responsibility for the future of our civilization,” Soros said. “We can’t build a global network on our own; we will need partner institutions and supporters from all around the world to join us in this enterprise.”
You can read Soros’s full remarks at his personal website.