The Open Society Foundations’ commitment to higher education is rooted in our founder George Soros’s earliest philanthropic efforts.
2020 Higher Education Budget by Region
George Soros’s first ventures into philanthropy focused on higher education: he started a scholarship program for black students living under apartheid in South Africa in 1979, and in the 1980s funded academic exchanges and visits abroad for academics and students in his native Hungary when it was still under Communism.
Today, our engagement in higher education issues has expanded considerably, to a broad effort to support the development of universities and colleges that are well governed, inclusive and responsive, and which promote academic freedom. In addition, we continue to provide scholarship support to talented individuals and potential leaders who might otherwise be denied the chance to pursue their studies—by politics, by conflict, or by ingrained prejudices.
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.
Since the 1980s, the Open Society Foundations have funded more than 20,000 scholarships for young people to study in both the United States and Europe, including at Central European University, an independent institution George Soros established in 1993.
Over the past decade, the Open Society Foundations have provided $8 million in support to the Al Quds Bard College in East Jerusalem’s Abu Dis neighborhood, with a particular focus on the Master of Arts program in teaching and critical thinking.
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.
The Foundations also provide funding for courses at the Women’s Studies Institute at Birzeit University in Ramallah, one of the first academic institutions in the Middle East to focus on the study of gender.
As part of its program to provide access to study opportunities for refugees, our Higher Education Support Program promotes innovative models of access to university education for refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya.
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.
Lessons from 25 Years of Open Society in South Africa—and Dreams for the Next 25 Years
For more than a quarter of a century, the Open Society Foundations have been dedicated to South Africa, proudly supporting its nascent democracy and civil society movements.
Ukraine Fights Its Shortfall of Trust in Education
An ambitious effort is underway to strengthen the country’s educational institutions and change incentive structures to address corruption.
The University That’s Educating—and Empowering—Women from across Asia
Critical thinking reigns at the Asian University for Women, where students get the kind of education usually found at small liberal arts schools.