Addressing the Crisis of Democracy Through Global Higher Education Networks

Bard College

Bard College will strengthen democratic life through education, by bringing graduate and undergraduate instruction to traditional and nontraditional populations through its national and international networks.

Last Updated: May 2023
Competition Participation
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Current Work Location(s):
  • Wien Stadt, Wien, Austria
  • Gorod Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • Palestine
  • New York, United States of America
  • Shenzhen, Guangdong Sheng, China
  • Land Berlin, Germany
  • Liwā’ al Jāmi‘ah, Muḩāfaz̧at `Ammān, Jordan
  • Huyện Bình Chánh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Priority Population(s):
  • Children and youth
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Immigrants and migrants
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
  • 4. Quality education
  • 8. Decent work and economic growth
  • 10. Reduced inequalities
  • 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • 17. Partnerships for the goals

Executive Summary

There is a clear connection between the practice of liberal education and the conduct of democracy. Recent disinvestment in education and anti-liberal forces coincide with an erosion of democratic norms in the United States and internationally. The challenges of college access among underrepresented populations and a dwindling faith in the kind of education necessary for democratic life are helping drive the global frenzy of anti-democratic sentiment. Bard College seeks to address the urgent challenges of democracy and education through innovative practice and advocacy that recognizes the importance of the arts in expression and dissent, and creates the first global, independent, sustainable undergraduate and graduate educational network. The future of democracy requires redefining higher education for the 21st century. Bard’s record of success in the West Bank, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, China, and urban centers in the US demonstrates the broader potential of this approach to transform lives and communities.

Organization Details
Lead Organization

Bard College

Organization Headquarters
Dutchess County, New York, United States of America
Organization ID
Number of Full-time Employees
> 1,000
Annual Operating Budget
$100.1 to 500 Million

Charity, fund, non-governmental organization, religious institution, school, or other entity

Organizations may provide budget and employee data based on this proposal or the organization as a whole. For more information on this proposal or organization, please email us.

2022 & 2021 Swift Grant Awardee

Bard College was selected as a 2021 Swift Grant awardee in partnership with the University of Waterloo. The Swift Grants fund provides small grants to Bold Solutions Network members for collaborative projects.

The two universities will expand their online Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice in March to engage students and faculty members from all disciplines in underserved countries in Africa. The project aims to reach more than 200,000 students from over 100 countries to learn about climate change, climate solutions, and climate justice.


Over the past year, Bard College and the Central European University have worked as the founding institutions to build the Open Society University Network (OSUN). OSUN envisions a new model of global higher education—a long-lasting network with deep partnerships among diverse institutions committed to addressing global challenges collaboratively.

OSUN seeks to:

  • foster critical thinking, intellectual inquiry, and fact-based research to strengthen the foundations of open societies amidst a resurgence of authoritarian regimes
  • educate students to address global challenges by getting to know other societies from the inside - expand access to higher education at a time of growing inequities
  • counteract polarization by promoting global collaboration in research and education to examine issues from different perspectives
  • bolster efforts by universities in challenging environments to build their own capacities through global partnerships, in order to make greater contributions to their societies

It has done so by offering virtual international exchanges and network classes, promoting curricular integration, fostering civic engagement amongst students, and extending liberal arts and sciences education to communities in which it has been underdeveloped, inaccessible, or absent.

COVID-19 Response

The need for Bard’s project, Addressing the Crisis of Democracy through a Global Higher Education Network, is not only greater during a pandemic or any world-wide crisis but also can be met by the organic and nimble nature of the project itself. Our close and creative approach to education is informing our development of new and effective ways to teach and support our students and engage with our communities across the world, even as we adapt to this crisis and its impact on higher education. We would revise the budget to include greater resources for high-quality connected learning, such as additional staff to assist all faculty with technology, more in-depth and continued training for faculty among all partners, and the purchase of new equipment and the upgrade of current equipment. A global higher education network as envisioned by Bard College and its partners has already mitigated risks as, even in the most perilous of times, it fosters critical thinking, open intellectual inquiry, and fact-based research, educates students to address tomorrow’s global challenges by getting to know other societies from the inside and expands access to higher education at a time of growing inequities in order to cultivate a new generation of globally engaged citizens and create new pathways for underserved communities into higher education.

Racial and Ethnic Injustice Response

Bard’s commitment to bringing higher education to marginalized communities in support of democratic values is embedded in its history, from Bard’s welcoming of over 300 Hungarian student freedom fighters in 1956 to its current work with students in inner cities, prisons, and other populations where social, financial, and political barriers limit access to learning. Bard’s Council on Inclusive Excellence takes a grassroots approach to guiding the College’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, including a new mentoring program for minority staff and a student-initiated project to examine the role of socioeconomic status and class at Bard. The College also has both a Dean and a Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and a multi-faith chaplain cohort, who facilitate inclusive planning throughout the college’s programs. The college’s Office of Access & Equity Programs provides services and support, including dedicated scholarships, to disadvantaged students. Bard’s Center for Civic Engagement initiatives have been effective in hiring and elevating faculty and leaders of color as well as faculty and leadership who reflect the communities that we aim to serve. We will build on this track record, with a strong commitment to giving historically underrepresented leaders and local voices real authority in the distribution of resources and in programmatic strategy. Similarly, Bard’s strategy of sustaining international programs through partnerships with local institutions of higher education – rather than by establishing independent branch campuses not closely tied to local entities –furthers this commitment and ensures that local voices are integrated into the foundation of our programs from inception.

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