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On 23 January 2020 George Soros announced, in Davos at the World Economic Forum, the launch of the Open Society University Network (OSUN) with USD 1 billion and invited other philanthropists to contribute. The network aims to promote the values of open society—including free expression and diversity of beliefs in an attempt to counter rising authoritarianism and populism.
The Central European University (CEU), which was forced out of Budapest last year and has resettled in Vienna and Bard College in New York will form the core of the new network. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College will serve as the chancellor of OSUN. The network seeks to partner with “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.” said Soros himself. On the partners list now are: Arizona State University, known for its distance learning, the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan and BRAC University in Bangladesh. Participating institutions have started networked courses that unite students and faculty from several universities located in different parts of the world, sharing faculty and conducting joint research projects.
OSUN does not only aim to reach institutions around the world that are in need of international partners, but also neglected populations, such as refugees, incarcerated people, the Roma and other displaced groups. It intends to start a massive “scholars at risk” programme by merging a large number of academically excellent but politically endangered scholars into the new global network, with the help of their allies.