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Central European University in Vienna, Other Austria
Date Posted 03/25/2021
Executive-President and Chancellor
Employment Type Fulltime
Application Deadline Open until filled

Central European University (CEU), a private, English speaking, singularly international, and research-intensive university, in Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary seeks a Rector/President. CEU was founded in 1991 by George Soros and dissident scholars and activists across Central and Eastern Europe as a social sciences and humanities university. It was formed to aid Central and Eastern Europe in establishing democracy and resisting populist and xenophobic nationalism. It retains its democratic mission and its commitment to Central and Eastern Europe but now teaches the most international student body of any research university in the world, with emphasis on developing nations, from Central and Eastern Europe to the Global South and East. CEU has achieved significant scholarly distinction for a university of its relative youth and modest size. It seeks a President/Rector committed to its open society missions and capable of building an enduring, globally consequential university.

CEU is a New York State incorporated and chartered institution of higher education and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It issues degrees as a United States university. It has campuses in Budapest, which was its home for most of its life, and Vienna, where it has moved in the last year. Its dual status, in particular, as American and Austrian, enables it to participate nationally with other Austrian universities, to compete for European research grants, to participate in EU initiatives while retaining the cachet, style, and independence of an American university.

All the constituents of the University – the Board, administration, faculty, and students – feel the CEU missions vividly and articulate both their democratic and global commitments consistently. They routinely explain their love of the institution and commitment to it, as well as their disagreements with it, in ethical language. They share their views in powerful, sometimes passionate voices. Most faculties, administrations, and boards in universities feel a mission commitment to their institution but, with CEU, mission matters.

As the University’s reputation emerged, it appealed more broadly. With the strong support of the founder, CEU recruited an ever more diverse student body, with an increasing emphasis on the Global South and East. It has emerged as a global institution, with students from more than 100 countries, providing post-graduate study for people from the developing world who would otherwise not have access. Today, ten percent of the student body of 1300 comes from Hungary, five percent from the United States, and less than one percent from any other country. It is hard to imagine another university like it. In the next few years, with the move to Vienna, CEU’s leaders believe that it will become even more global.

CEU’s faculty includes 197 permanent and 184 visiting faculty, in 15 academic departments with 17 specialized research centers. It offers mainly master’s-level and doctoral programs in the social sciences, humanities, law, management, and public policy. One-third of the student body, today, are in PhD programs, two-thirds in a mix of academic and professional master’s programs. The 197 permanent faculty are resident faculty, a status that is roughly comparable to tenure. It has an effective 6:1 student-faculty ratio.

Faculty scholarly efforts have produced excellent results, as observed by the Middle States review in 2019. The Cognitive Science and Economics programs, among others, draw large ERC grants and are acknowledged internationally. In Philosophy, Politics, and International Studies, CEU ranks among the top 50 institutions worldwide per QS 2020 rankings. In three additional disciplines, History, Sociology, and Social Policy and Administration, CEU ranks in the top 100. For a small and new university, it has done remarkably well and is acknowledged in Europe as a fine research university. It has the ambition to become “the best research-intensive, English-speaking university in the social sciences and humanities in Europe.”

In the last three years, CEU has battled crises on several fronts, beginning with a threat to the University’s very existence in Hungary: Lex CEU. Throughout the Lex CEU crisis, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban directly attacked CEU by demanding modifications to Hungary’s law on higher education. In 2018, Orban further attacked CEU’s founder through an anti-immigrant, anti-Soros reelection campaign. These moves all culminated in the daunting – if necessary – decision to transplant the major locus of CEU and its people across a national border, reestablishing the University in Vienna, Austria, where it is generously welcomed, while retaining a presence in Hungary. Now, amid major programmatic redirection, CEU is launching an undergraduate offering in a university originally founded to educate post-graduates. All of this, of course, is also compounded by the deadliest global pandemic in a century. The University, under the vivid public leadership of Michael Ignatieff, greatly enhanced its visibility in the dispute with the Hungarian government and has become widely known as a beacon of academic freedom and a champion of the values of an open society. After success inaugurating the transition, Ignatieff has announced his intention to complete his tenure as President/Rector and take up a senior faculty position in the University in the summer of 2021.

The next President/Rector will join the University on the cusp of a critical and exciting chapter, rallying the community behind its idealistic, and now expanded, shared purpose. George Soros, through the Open Society Foundation (OSF), has just made an exceptionally generous commitment to CEU, and one that will give the University a ten-year window to grow, to reimagine its future, to become increasingly global and essential to global development and to build the assets and revenue streams that will create a great and enduring institution.

Over five years, OSF is providing a transition grant of €193 million to cover the costs of transitioning to Vienna. Over ten years, OSF has provided a recapitalization grant of €550 million to sustain operations and to allow the core endowment to grow. To renovate Otto Wagner’s acclaimed Steinhof hospital into the University’s new and historic campus, The Soros Management Fund has provided is a €185 million, interest-only loan at a 2.0 percent interest rate. Finally, and crucially for the future of CEU’s mission, OSF has committed €1 billion to build the Open Society University Network (OSUN), a new global network led by CEU and Bard College that integrates learning and the advancement of knowledge, across the globe, especially in the South and East, developing the research and teaching essential to open societies on every continent.

As a first step to building CEU’s enduring strength, the University has created CEU 2025, a strategic plan that commits the University to substantial increases in tuition revenue, growth in fundraising, modest growth in research funding, and a commitment to lead the development of OSUN.

These are the essential first steps, the pathway to the future but they are not the complete strategy. CEU will need to roughly double the goals of CEU 2025 to achieve its goals.

A new Rector/President will have all of the opportunities and challenges available when leading a dynamic and extremely ambitious university, that has the opportunity to capitalize on nearly €2 billion in philanthropy, that if mobilized correctly, can match some large challenges: a cross-border relocation and establishment of a new campus, the creation of an undergraduate program, the pursuit of revenue-producing graduate programs, the creation of an international network of universities and the solidification of a financially sound university with a mission unlike any other in the world. CEU seeks to successfully establish itself in Vienna, engage in mission definition and clarity, weigh and implement critical strategies to ensure long-term mission success.

As the University looks to its future, it seeks candidates with intellectual gravitas, moral fortitude, global perspective, and the demonstrated capacity to build CEU into an enduring, globally consequential university like no other.


No single candidate will possess all of the ideal qualifications, but the committee seeks a Rector/President who has a track record of experience and the personal talent to lead and build an exceptional university. The search committee seeks candidates with the following qualifications and experiences:

  • Candidates should possess an intellectually engaging and personal understanding of the broad CEU academic endeavor and a powerful personal commitment to the ideals of an open society.
  • The next Rector/President must have the capacity to lead a vigorous faculty discussion on the most fundamental issues facing the University and must be able to persuade the finest faculty in the field to join or remain.
  • Candidates should possess a firm grounding in the intellectual themes that are essential to the understanding of CEU’s academic activity.
  • The Committee is particularly, but not exclusively, interested in candidates with a distinguished academic history in a relevant field for CEU. It is particularly helpful if the candidate has published in English and has been translated into at least one additional language.
  • The Committee seeks experienced candidates who have built strong management teams, and run open, responsive, and highly reliable, fiscally-successful administrations.
  • Experience developing market sensitive, new educational programming that produces net revenue is especially useful.
  • A Rector/President will serve the University in a wide range of external roles, including representation in Europe and Hungary. A familiarity with diplomatic, public, or external university work will greatly aid a candidate in these endeavors.
  • Strong candidates will have had the personal experience or the developed talent to raise substantial funds for the University.
  • The best candidates will have the personal talent to synthesize the work of a diverse faculty and diverse student body and to communicate the excitement and the importance of the work to a wide audience of students, new faculty, university peers, and major donors worldwide.
  • Familiarity with the German language is preferable but not required.

More information about CEU can be found at: http://www.ceu.edu


CEU has retained Isaacson, Miller, an executive search firm with a specialty in academic leadership search, to assist in recruiting its new Rector/President. All inquiries, nominations, referrals, and resumes with cover letters should be sent electronically to the following via www.imsearch.com/7614

John Isaacson, Chair

Lisa Savereid, Partner

Berkley Burke, Associate

Candidates from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.


Central European University (CEU) is a research-intensive university specializing in the social sciences, humanities, law, public policy and management. It is accredited in the United States, Austria and Hungary. CEU's mission is to promote academic excellence, state-of-the-art research, research-based teaching and learning and civic engagement, in order to contribute to the development of open societies. CEU offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs and enrolls more than 1,400 students from over 100 countries. The teaching staff consists of resident faculty from over 50 countries and prominent visiting scholars from around the world. The language of instruction is English.

For more information, please visit https://www.ceu.edu/.

CEU is an equal opportunity employer.

The privacy of your personal information is very important to us. We collect, use, and store your personal information in accordance with the requirements of the applicable data privacy rules, including specifically the General Data Protection Regulation. To learn more about how we manage your personal data during the recruitment process, please see our Privacy Notice at: https://www.ceu.edu/recruitment-privacy-notice (Hungary: Közép-európai Egyetem, Central European University) or https://www.ceu.edu/recruitment-privacy-notice-austria (Austria: Central European University, CEU Central European University Private University).

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