Grantee: American University of Central Asia, via Indiana University
Ranking: 7th highest grantee, 2005 — 2009
Type: Academic Endowment
Issue: Education, Creating Public Experts (in Kyrgyzstan)
About: In April 2005, Indiana University announced that the university would receive $15 million to create an endowment for the American University of Central Asia (AUCA), a liberal arts university with approximately 1100 students, located in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Republic). One-third of the $15 million came from George Soros€™ Open Society Institute (OSI), and the other two-thirds came from the American public via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Both the OSI and USAID have provided other funding to AUCA. In 1999, USAID gave Indiana University $1.9 million dollars for AUCA programs, and they provided an additional $2.7 million directly to the AUCA in 2010. AUCA€™s Social Research Center has received additional support from the OSI.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Addendum: Why does the U.S. government fund educational institutions beyond our borders? The answer lies in the diplomatic mission of USAID. Establishing American educational institutions in foreign countries; promoting international faculty exchange, and providing fellowships to foreign students attending American schools are generally activities that further USAID’s mandate to “foster a more democratic and prosperous world integrated into the global economy.”
However, combining State Department funds with substantial funding from the OSI for a joint project in a region where the OSI arguably has greater cultural capital and different political goals than the United States raises serious questions about whether such a project meets USAID’s other mandate, that: “U.S. development assistance must be fully aligned with U.S. Foreign Policy.”1
George Soros has repeated stated that the United States, and especially its foreign policy, does not exemplify the vision of “Open Society” he is seeking to foster internationally through his charitable donations.
Given Soros’ open hostility towards U.S. foreign policy goals, should USAID be spending millions of dollars to partner with the OSI to build institutions overseas, particularly in a region of strategic importance and political insecurity that is also a region in which Soros is deeply, even obsessively, critical of our post 9/11 foreign policy?
Kyrgyzstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. As one of the poorest countries emerging from Soviet rule, it attracted substantial development aid throughout the 1990’s. As a nation with a large Muslim majority (80.6% in 2009), aid increased after 9/11. According to a 2002 Open Society Institute (OSI) study:
International donor funding and loan finance in the region increased steadily over the last decade — then jumped sharply after the attack on New York on September 11, 2001. Major international organizations — such as the Asian Development Bank, Agha Khan Foundation, UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank, and the Soros Foundations network — moved to support development, promote democracy and buttress stability in Central Asia.2
The OSI study, drafted in anticipation of joint educational institution-building with USAID, cites the startling statistic that “more than 2,000 NGOs were established in Kyrgyz Republic” in the ten years following the collapse of Soviet rule, “[m]ost of them . . . focused on issues of gender, human rights and ecology.”3
NGOs themselves would seem to be a significant growth industry in the country. And NGO culture, like Soros himself, can also be very hostile to American interests.
The American University of Central Asia opened two years after independence, in 1993, as a school within the Kyrgyz State National University and was later established as a separate, English-language American university, in 1997. On its website, AUCA promotes itself specifically as an improvement over native Kyrgyz Republic educational institutions:
American University of Central Asia is an international, multi-disciplinary learning community in the American liberal arts tradition. . . AUCA is committed to freedom of expression, critical inquiry and academic honesty. . . In a region noted for corruption in the field of higher education, AUCA is particularly proud of its reputation for honesty, both among individual students and faculty.4
The characterization of fellow universities as “dishonest” seems jarring on a university homepage, despite the fact that the culture of graft and censorship plaguing public institutions in the region both before and after Soviet rule is hardly a state secret.5 What sort of institution is AUCA?
The AUCA currently offers undergraduate liberal arts degrees and a graduate MBA. Undergraduate programs include American and European Studies, Business Administration, Languages, Economics, International and Business Law, Journalism, Politics, and Software Engineering.6 Graduate programs in Central Asian Studies, Environmental Sustainability, and Economic Development are scheduled to open soon. The school still highlights its western-style liberal arts and western business methods curricula, but it places an increasing emphasis on public policy.
The announcement of new programs focusing on sustainability and development suggests that AUCA may be moving in the direction of another Soros-identified educational institute, the Central European University (CEU) located in Budapest, Hungary.7
The CEU might be seen as a template for Soros’ two other Euro-Asian institution-building academic projects, the AUCA and the European University at St. Petersburg. Soros founded the CEU in 1991 as a new sort of hybrid think-tank/university, one explicitly charged with advancing the goals of the Open Society Institute through scholarship and the credentialing of public policy experts.
Soros has donated a record-breaking $840 million to the CEU: it is literally his kingdom. When he stepped down as Chairman of the CEU board in 2007, his close associate Leon Botstein, President of Bard College, assumed the chair. Bard College also shares academic programs with both the AUCA and the CEU and receives substantial funding from the OSI.8
The mission statement of CEU demonstrates its role in shaping the policy experts and bureaucrats Soros deploys internationally through his OSI organizational networks:
Central European University was founded in 1991 with the explicit aim of helping the process of transition from dictatorship to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia . . . More recently, its interest has become global, with special attention paid to emerging democracies throughout the world. These aims — all in step with promoting the values of the Open Society — remain fundamental to CEU, but our mission has become global . . . CEU has been working hand-in-hand with the Open Society Institute (OSI), providing academic and professional backing for OSI’s global agenda of democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal and social reform. The university has also been an active academic partner of local initiatives to strengthen good governance and address challenges as diverse as supporting independent media and promoting public health.9
Diane Stone, a professor in CEU’s Public Policy Department, notes approvingly that CEU is following the lead of American universities that blurred the lines between disinterested scholarship and advocacy in the 1960’s:
The development of the Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) at the Central European University is symptomatic of the broad philanthropic concerns for public leadership in developing and transition countries as well as in tune with the ‘good governance’ agenda of international organizations. This is not dissimilar to the trend in the USA between 1967 and 1970 when philanthropic and other support helped launch graduate public policy programs in institution such as Harvard and UC€”Berkeley.10
These programs, of course, fuelled the rise in America of what David Horowitz and Richard Poe have named The Shadow Party: policy elites and credentialed experts creating anti-democratic bureaucracies that are more receptive to NGOs, foundations, and international governing bodies than to elected governments or citizens. Dr. Stone calls this “shaping government policy with knowledge and expertise,” through which “[o]pen society leaders are inculcated via a range of fellowships and grants for individuals.”
“[T]he idea of leadership is embedded within the philanthropic ideals of George Soros and in the organizational missions of both the OSI and the CEU,” she writes.11
How “embedded” is the Open Society Institute’s “mission” in the U.S. taxpayer-funded American University of Central Asia? The AUCA website states that the university’s Social Research Center is partnering with both the Open Society Institute and USAID, as well as the Soros Foundation. Considering George Soros’ well-documented hostility towards U.S. foreign policy, this partnership merits more scrutiny.
SEE ALSO: Bard College
6 Iconoclastic journalist Elinor Burkett documents residual post-Soviet intellectual suppression in her account of attempting to teach investigative journalism to students at the Kyrgyz-Russo-Slavic University in Bishkek in 2001. Burkett, Elinor, So Many Enemies, So Little Time: An American Woman in all the Wrong Places (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2004), chapter 2.