OSUN builds on the accomplishments of several major initiatives in higher education supported by the Open Society Foundations (OSF). In the 1990s, OSF’s Higher Education Support Program (HESP) effectively served as a Marshall Plan for higher education in Central and Eastern Europe. CEU, founded in 1991, became a unique model in graduate education, combining cutting-edge research and research-based teaching with a focused social mission.
For almost 30 years, OSF has supported innovative cooperation between CEU and Bard College, and between their respective national and international networks. During this period, OSF has contributed to the development of groundbreaking higher education institutions, first in Central and Eastern Europe, and then globally. OSF also supported a program of fellowships in higher education that has intellectually empowered tens of thousands of students and educators throughout the world.
The Open Society Foundations (OSF) is an international grant-making network that supports civil society groups around the world, with the aim of advancing justice, education, public health and independent media. Since its inception, in 1993, it has contributed:
$15.2 billion in total expenditures
50,000+ grants to organizations, scholars, and activists in 120+ countries
Although originally focused in the 1990s on Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, South Africa, and Myanmar, OSF has since expanded its network to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, and had a budget of $1.1 billion in 2019.
OSF’s Higher Education Support Program initiated a massive undertaking to reform research and teaching in the social sciences and humanities at universities across Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia in the 1990s. It has since expanded this program to over 50 colleges and universities around the world, with the aim of promoting academic freedom, university autonomy, equal and open access to knowledge and education, student-centered learning, service to the community, and transparent, inclusive governance. This program has yielded significant advances, including:
The creation of beachheads of intellectual freedom and critical enquiry at some of its core grantee institutions, such as the American University of Central Asia and American University in Bulgaria.
Improvements in the quality of the liberal arts curriculum and pedagogy at the American University of Central Asia, European Humanities University, Al-Quds Bard College, and St. Petersburg University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts, in partnership with Bard.
The introduction of innovative models of access to higher education in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya.
The establishment of independent external testing system for admissions at Ukrainian universities, which have combat the paying of bribes for student places.
As part of its efforts to expand access to higher education and empowered educators around the world, OSF has provided close to 20,000 scholarships and research grants since the 1980s - with awards in 42 countries, ranging from Haiti to Angola, Eritrea, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Cambodia.
OSF has also demonstrated its deep commitment to academic freedom through its early and long-standing support for scholars who are threatened or imprisoned because of their work. It was a founding contributor to the Scholar Rescue Fund and is a leading supporter of the Scholars at Risk network.