Press release

Hertie School celebrates eleventh graduating class

© Himsel/Hertie School of Governance

CEU President Michael Ignatieff delivers commencement speech, “Our freedom depends on the health of democratic institutions.”

Berlin, 2 June 2017 – The Hertie School of Governance is celebrating the eleventh graduating class of its Master of Public Policy and its first graduating class of its Master of International Affairs. 171 students from 39 nations receive their diplomas during a ceremony in Konzerthaus Berlin today (2 June). Seven graduates will receive a doctorate.

Helmut K. Anheier, President of the Hertie School, opens the event with nearly 800 guests in attendance. The keynote address is given by Michael Ignatieff, President and Rector of Central European University (CEU). Ignatieff’s remarks focus on challenges to academic freedom. “The subject is very special to us in light of the events in Hungary, and we are very happy to welcome Michael Ignatieff to the Hertie School,” says President Anheier.

“Our freedom depends on the health of democratic institutions. When democracies are weak, when majoritarian populists erode checks and balances, freedom of the press and an independent judiciary, universities are especially vulnerable. That is what has happened in Hungary,” says Ignatieff in his speech. “To survive, universities need to do whatever they can to strengthen the democratic institutions that protect them and they must seek and earn the solidarity of the societies they serve. It is the ultimate guarantee of their freedom.”

Ignatieff also appeals to the scientific community to be aware of their responsibility: “To ensure that our doors are always open, that we communicate our research in an accessible fashion, and that we do everything to remove barriers that exclude our fellow citizens from the chance to learn with us.”  At the same time, populist politicians who reject scientific expertise “ … are bound to find themselves fumbling for the light switch when they come into power.”

A transcript of Ignatieff's keynote address and press photo can be found here.

The Hertie School of Governance is a private university based in Berlin, Germany, accredited by the state and the German Science Council. It prepares exceptional students for leadership positions in government, business, and civil society. Interdisciplinary and practice-oriented teaching, first-class research and an extensive international network set the Hertie School apart and position it as an ambassador of good governance, characterised by public debate and engagement. The school was founded at the end of 2003 as a project of the Hertie Foundation, which remains its major partner.

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