Brac University is planning to integrate teaching and research to better prepare students for current and future global challenges. They intend to do this in collaboration with the Open Society University Network (OSUN).
Brac University will promote the values of open society, including free expression and diversity of belief.
"The new venture will start within the next six months, and the strategy of implementing this idea will soon be formulated," said Professor Emeritus of Brac University Manzoor Ahmed.
On January 23 this year, George Soros – the global financier and philanthropist – created the OSUN in Switzerland, and endowed the network with $1 billion. He also asked other philanthropists to contribute to the project.
The network will integrate teaching and research at higher education institutions across the globe. It will simultaneously offer network courses and joint degree programmes, and regularly bring students and faculty from different countries together for in-person and online discussions.
The network aims to reach the students who need it the most.
OSUN has selected Brac University in Bangladesh for the first phase of the project. Professor Vincent Chang, Vice Chancellor of the university, also expressed interest in working with the network to boost teaching and research activities to promote core humanitarian values in society, where everyone can express themselves freely.
Manzoor Ahmed, who is closely involved with the project, told The Business Standard that Brac had worked with George Soros for years for the children in Bangladesh.
He said, "The new initiative is wonderful. The motto of OSUN and Brac University is almost the same. George Soros has been fighting against fundamentalism to ensure freedom of speech and expression, and to establish a humanitarian society. Brac has also been trying to build the future generation with the spirit of humanity.
"It will definitely be a good initiative in the context of the present world. We are also proud to be part of the initiative. The design of the project is yet to be decided. We will reveal further details after completing the final formula."
He further said, "Brac founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed was a good friend of George Soros, a Hungarian-American who founded the Soros Fund Management and Open Society Foundations. Soros was impressed by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed's ideas.
"This is why he showed interest in working with Brac."
Soros has given more than $32 billion over the past 30 years to promote justice, education, public health and independent media across the globe.
A dozen universities, such as Arizona State University in the USA and SOAS of the University of London in the UK, will also be participating in the first phase of the OSUN project.
Several research institutions and educational organisations are also involved in the project, such as the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs (US), Chatham House (UK), Institute for New Economic Thinking (USA and UK), Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (Austria), Open Society Archives (Hungary), Rift Valley Institute (Kenya) and the Talloires Network (US).
According to a statement on the OSUN website, the project aims to "Counteract intellectual monocultures and polarisation by uniting institutions around the world in collaborative research projects, and by encouraging students to examine issues from different perspectives and through reasoned arguments."
In that statement, Soros said, "The OSUN will offer an international platform for teaching and research. In the first phase, it will bring together an existing network to develop a shared curriculum and teach students as part of this global university network, creating opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds across the world.
"I believe that our best hope lies in access to an education that reinforces the autonomy of the individual by cultivating critical thinking and emphasizing academic freedom. I consider the Open Society University Network to be the most important and enduring project of my life, and I should like to see it implemented while I am still around."
In the second phase, the project will open up this network to other institutions that want to join, and are eager and qualified to do so.
"We are looking for far-sighted partners who feel their responsibility for the future of our civilisation," Soros said.
Leon Botstein, president of Bard College who will serve as chancellor of OSUN, said in a statement, "The OSUN is the most transformative initiative in higher education I have witnessed in my career.
"It promises robust and diverse partnerships, and innovation extending critical inquiry, research, and scholarship on an international scale. I want to express my gratitude to Soros and the Open Society Foundations for their vision and confidence."