George Soros’s earliest efforts to promote open society go back to 1979 when he provided scholarships to black students in apartheid South Africa. After this, he began helping Soviet bloc dissidents to study in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. These early interventions led to the development of the Open Society Scholarship Programs, which for 30 years has provided over 20,000 scholarships to promising applicants from educationally underserved communities in targeted countries to complete degrees and research at internationally acclaimed universities.
The global environment has taken a sharply illiberal turn, and threats to open societies and democratic principles abound, including a resurgence in academic censorship, a powerful repudiation of science and verifiable data, and a significant increased repression of scholars. The very concept of a “university” is increasingly vulnerable to ideological and political threat. These developments suggest a different direction for Open Society’s involvement with universities as change agents, causing us to reconceive our involvement with scholars.
With this in mind, the Open Society’s Global Board and senior leadership have taken the difficult decision to wind down our Scholarship Programs this year. This means that no new competitions will be held for the following programs: Civil Society Leadership Awards, Civil Society Scholar Awards, Disability Rights Scholarship Program, and the Palestinian Rule of Law Program.
This will not affect any current or incoming grantees. Open Society will honor all our commitments to current scholars and students.