The Central European University formally began its new academic year today, welcoming students, faculty, staff and distinguished guests with an opening ceremony at its Budapest campus, the university told the Budapest Business Journal.
Rector and President Michael Ignatieff welcomed close to 650 new students from more than 80 countries to the community of 1,300 students, hundreds of staff and faculty, and nearly 17,000 alumni worldwide.
CEU says that the 2019/20 academic year is a year of transition for CEU, seeing first-year students spending time in both Vienna and Budapest. In the fall term, more than 300 U.S. degree students will have the opportunity to study in Vienna. The first cohort of Vienna-based students will begin their classes in Quellenstrasse on September 30.
Provost of Central European University Liviu Matei greeted the community first, stressing that this year will see students studying both in Vienna and Budapest, referencing Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities.
“We, members of the administration, faculty and staff, can promise you, our incoming students, that we will try our best to make sure that yours will be ʼthe best of timesʼ, and not ʼthe worst of timesʼ, in Budapest and in Vienna. We can certainly guarantee that this will be a time of hope and not a time of despair.”
Pro-Rector Zsolt Enyedi welcomed the community in Hungarian. "Every university has values. We, for example, believe that students and professors should not be at the mercy of political campaigns. We believe that the decision about what kind of degrees can be issued in a country should be made by the professional organizations of higher education and not politicians,” Enyedi said.
"Sometimes you need to pay a big price for this way of thinking, but we cannot complain, because we have been presented not only with these hardships but new opportunities as well. We will be able to prove in the next years that despite the challenges, it is possible to remain one of the best universities in Europe," he said.
President and Rector Michael Ignatieff told students, "You are joining a community bonded together by our battle to remain in Budapest as a free institution. We will never abandon Budapest. We will continue to be a beacon of freedom in this city. We will continue to be an international symbol of academic freedom and free inquiry."
The President-Rector added: “CEU is not here to teach you a set of liberal or progressive clichés or confirm your fashionable opinions, but to teach you that there IS such a thing as truth. There is such a thing as knowledge. And that is acquired through mastery of a discipline. In a world of propaganda, lies and organized deception, there is no power compared to truth.”
Representing CEUʼs faculty, Professor László Pintér, Head of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, addressed the incoming students.
"You will need to construct, challenge and defend arguments more vigorously than perhaps any time before. You will dig deeper and question not only what we know, but how we know what we think we know," Pintér said, finishing his speech with a quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
After Transition Year, CEU’s U.S. degree activity will be based in Vienna. There may be some aspects of some programs that will take place in the Budapest facilities and this will be decided on a program-by-program basis, the university says.
CEU’s is accredited in Hungary until the end of 2022 but is determined to maintain academic and public activities on its campus in Budapest thereafter. Some key research activities will remain in Budapest, together with the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA), a valuable resource, not only for the city but for the whole region.