American Jewish philanthropist George Soros has announced an investment of $1 billion in a new international educational initiative to promote liberal values and free societies.
Soros announced the Open Society University Network at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, calling it “the most important and enduring project of my life.”
Details on the project were scant, but a statement said it would aim “to reach the students who need it the most and to promote the values of open society — including free expression and diversity of beliefs.”
It will also seek to assist “institutions in need of international partners, as well as neglected populations” and help “politically endangered scholars.”
The initiative describes itself as seeking to “strengthen foundations of open society amid authoritarian resurgence” around the world, and to “counteract polarization by promoting global research collaboration and educating students to examine issues from different perspectives and advance reasoned arguments.”
One of the project’s founding members is the Central European University, a private institution founded by Soros which was forced to relocate from Budapest in 2018 over pressure from the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. It recently opened its new Vienna campus.
Soros’s intense efforts to promote progressive causes have made him a frequent target and boogeyman of right-wing leaders and a key figure in far-right conspiracy theories. His vilification has often carried anti-Semitic undertones, with the 89-year-old portrayed as a villainous figure trying to gain global power.
The Jewish billionaire told the Guardian in November he believed the tide may be turning against recent years’ wave of global populism, and said of his vilification by right-wing leaders that he “must be doing something right.”