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Education

The Open Society Foundations’ engagement in education is rooted in our founder George Soros’s earliest philanthropic efforts.

$145M 2020 expenditures for Education
14.5% Percentage of global expenditures
-19.8% Average annual change in expenditures since 2016

2020 Education Expenditures by Region


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      Explore our full expenditures by theme and region

      Our Work

      George Soros’s commitment to fostering critical thinking, the free exchange of ideas, and access to education has shaped Open Society’s global work, with a focus on approaches that respond to the needs of children, students, and their families.

      Soros's first philanthropic ventures involved providing scholarships for Black students under apartheid South Africa in the 1970s. He went on to co-found the Central European University in 1993, working to reignite intellectual inquiry and exchange in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism. From 1994 to 2020, Open Society’s Early Childhood Program advanced the rights of young children by supporting ambitious initiatives and advocacy to reshape early childhood development practices and institutions.

      Today, the Foundation’s engagement in education and child development issues has continued to evolve. It includes our substantial support for the Open Society Universities Network, an unprecedented initiative launched in 2020, to defend academic freedom and critical thinking by connecting scholars, students, and educational institutions from around the world. In 2022, Open Society Foundations partnered with the Oak Foundation and Porticus to launch the Early Childhood Regional Networks Fund to secure vibrant, stakeholder-led regional platforms for the early childhood field.

      Open Society continues to fund groups working to promote access to education for all, including those who face the biggest barriers because of entrenched discrimination, or displacement by war, conflict, and economic pressures.

      A group of people at an event on disability rights in conversation.
      Elizabeth Kamundia, an expert on disability rights and recipient of the Open Society Disability Rights Scholarship in Galway, Ireland on November 21, 2012.  © Andrew Testa/Panos for the Open Society Foundations

      Responding to COVID-19

      Closedowns aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus have had a devastating effect on students—from the very youngest to those at universities and college—as well as on their teachers and on academic research. We are supporting efforts to ensure that all students have access to the technology that enables them to keep learning, while also working to make sure that the crisis does not lead to technology companies exploiting their role in the crisis.

      Strengthening Academic Institutions

      The Open Society Foundations helped establish the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, which opened in 1998 and is now one of the most highly regarded higher education institutions in Kyrgyzstan, and part of the Open Society Universities Network.

      Two students sit behind a desk while talking to a peer who is standing in front of them.
      Three students talk during Open House Day at American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on February 4, 2017. American University of Central Asia

      Access to Higher Education for Refugees

      As part of its program to provide access to study opportunities for refugees, Open Society has promoted innovative models of access to university education for refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya.

      Young men and women in a classroom
      Students in a school at the Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya. © Tom Pilston/Panos Pictures/Redux

      Promoting University Integrity and Academic Freedom

      In Ukraine, the national foundation helped universities establish an independent external testing system for admissions—aimed at combating the paying of bribes for student places—that now operates across the country.

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