The Open Society Foundations seek a director for the Higher Education Support Program, a grantmaking program that supports institutions of higher education and initiatives within them that strengthen open society, principally in societies experiencing major political transitions. The director could be based in London or Budapest.

The Higher Education Support Program (HESP) supports innovative initiatives in higher education that contribute directly to the building and sustaining of open societies. The program considers opportunities in any of the countries and regions where Open Society operates, but works principally within countries experiencing political transitions. The staff today includes program officers dedicated to HESP’s efforts in the Middle East and North Africa, Eurasia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South East Asia.

HESP also continues to provide assistance—both financial and technical—to a network of select institutions with which we have engaged for many years, ranging from undergraduate universities to stand-alone post-graduate institutions. This support tends to focus on sustainable curriculum and faculty development, improvement of the methods of teaching and learning, the strengthening of university management, and the linkage of higher education reforms to broader open society efforts. HESP also identifies creative opportunities for targeted individual support of faculty and administrators.

A further component of HESP’s work is its collaboration with the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. Also founded by George Soros, the CEU offers master’s and doctoral programs in the social sciences, the humanities, law, management, and public policy. The relationship between HESP and CEU has moved through many phases over the last two-and-a-half decades, and the new director of HESP will be asked to explore ways of deepening and broadening the relationship further.

It is important to understand what HESP is not. It is not a program dedicated to strengthening the field of higher education or advancing teaching, research, or scholarship as an end in itself. We recognize that this is a time of great ferment in the theory and organization of higher education in many parts of the world, but the opportunities to transform the nature and structure of higher education—however exciting—are not the focus of this program. As a part of the Open Society Foundations, HESP is dedicated to strengthening open societies, and HESP engages in countries or with particular institutions when that engagement—often in tandem with the efforts of other components of the foundations—supports the pluralism, respect for rights, pursuit of justice, and good governance that we believe are essential to open societies. It is important that the HESP staff and advisory board understand impending changes in the nature and structure of higher education and recent innovations in the ways in which scholarship is pursued and universities financed, but these are most important as context, not as the direct objects of HESP’s ambitions.

Open Society Foundations

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to criticism, whose laws and policies are open to debate and correction, and whose political institutions are open to the participation of all people. We seek to strengthen justice and the rule of law; broaden respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities; encourage pluralism and a robust diversity of opinion; deepen democratic practice and participation; expand economic equity; support effective governance; and invest in individuals, public and private organizations, and social movements that advance these goals.

We are a global network of foundations committed to local knowledge and national expertise. Our network includes national foundations, regional foundations, and other geographic programs operating in more than one hundred countries. At the same time, many programs with global reach operate from our four headquarters in Europe and the United States, including programs on digital information, documentary photography, drug policy, early childhood, education, fellowships, fiscal governance, higher education, human rights, international migration, justice, public health, scholarships, think tanks, and women’s rights. In addition to making grants to organizations and individuals, the Open Society Foundations engage in policy advocacy, legal advocacy and litigation, program-related investing, and public communications, as well as providing direct assistance to governments. Most programs and foundations in the network are governed or advised by their own boards.

The Open Society Foundations are the global philanthropies of George Soros, who, as chairman, plays an active role in the work of the foundations. 

Job Profile

The director of HESP leads a team currently consisting of 25 professionals based in London and Budapest. The director manages a grantmaking budget that in 2014 is $23 million. The position represents a rare opportunity, both to shape the engagement of institutions of higher education with political and social change in several parts of the world, and to nurture the development of a new generation of leaders in higher education engaged in the transformation of their own regions and societies.

The director is the principal strategist on the roles of higher education in the work of the Open Society Foundations, articulating the goals and crafting strategies of the global program, winning approval of those goals and strategies by the president and the Global Board, and serving as a resource to the foundations and programs across the network. That role necessarily entails remaining up-to-date on the trends, debates, and innovations in the field, and maintaining familiarity with the individuals and organizations most active in the field. The role also necessarily entails collaboration with colleagues and partners inside and outside the Open Society Foundations, especially with the program’s advisory board. The director is expected to build constructive relationships with the chair and the members of the program’s advisory board.

The director must also be a skilled manager and team leader. The director is expected to provide effective supervision of program staff members, including attending to individual performance and professional development. The director will be called upon from time to time to participate in working groups and discussions on topics related to the Open Society Foundations as a whole. The position reports to a member of the Senior Management Committee designated by the president of the Open Society Foundations.


The successful candidate will be a respected leader and authority in the field of higher education, knowledgeable about the roles that universities have played in recent times of political transition. Candidates need not be based in a university today, but should have advanced academic training and a decade of experience in the field.

The successful candidate will have demonstrated mastery of the field of higher education through a combination of professional experience, academic training, and familiarity with relevant literature, institutions, and leaders in the field. Detailed knowledge of the state of higher education in at least two countries where the Open Society Foundations are active is essential, along with curiosity about the situation in other countries and regions. Engagement at the intersection of higher education and other themes prominent in the mission and work of the Open Society Foundations (e.g., human rights, justice, governance, digital information, public policy, human development) will be a great advantage.

The successful candidate will be an excellent writer, editor, and speaker in English. Proficiency in other languages will be a great advantage as will skills as a facilitator, presenter, instructor, or discussant. Demonstrated cross-cultural competence is essential and substantial life experience in multiple cultures will be an advantage. Diplomatic and problem-solving abilities as well as broad intellectual curiosity, comfort with robust debate, and a good sense of humor will also be advantageous. Candidates should be eager for continued professional growth while focused on the promotion and professional development of grantees, partners in the field, and colleagues.

The successful candidate must have demonstrated skills as a team leader and manager. Candidates should be articulate about their own strengths and limitations. Experience in more than one sector (public sector, commercial sector, nonprofit sector) would be a benefit, but is not essential.

The director should expect to be traveling frequently throughout the world, and will be expected to manage responsibilities, collaborations, and reporting relationships across substantial distances.

Work Environment and Physical Demands

Essential functions are typically performed in an office setting with a low level of noise. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

Commensurate with experience. Excellent benefits package.
Application Instructions

Please email your CV and cover letter with salary requirements to: Please include job code in subject line: DIR-HESP.