CEU Business School

CEU Business School—Historical Overview*


CEU Business School, which became affiliated with CEU only ten years ago, has a longer history than CEU itself. Established principally by George Soros, it admitted its first cohort in 1989, two years before CEU started to offer classes.

In 1987 two professors at Indiana University in Bloomington learned that Mr. Soros and a well-connected business executive in the then still communist Hungary, Mr. Sandor Demjan (who, after the transformation, became one of Hungary’s most successful entrepreneurs) jointly decided to found a graduate management school in Budapest to serve talented people from throughout the region.

In the fall of 1987, Messrs Soros and Demjan were invited to spend two days at the Kelley School of Business of Indiana University, where the dean and the faculty gave them a series of presentations about how business schools work and shared ideas about the kind of management school that would be appropriate to train future business leaders in Eastern Europe. Mr. Soros provided much of the initial funding while Mr. Demjan made available a chateau in the suburb of Budapest to serve as the first home of the International Management Center (IMC). Mr. Demjan has remained a continuous supporter of the School to date, providing scholarships.

Mr. Soros tapped two Indiana University faculty members, Professors Joseph Battat (a Canadian-American who earlier had established China’s first Western business school in Shanghai) and Paul Marer (a Hungarian-American), to work with a Soros non-profit organization to lay the School’s foundations. They did so (part-time) for a year. Prof. Marer taught the first group of IMC students in 1989, spent another semester as a visiting faculty in 1997, and between 2000 and 2007 had served three terms as Academic Director (Associate Dean for Academics). Currently he is a core faculty member of CEU Business School.

As the first Western-type management school in Communist Eastern Europe, the founding of IMC generated a great deal of favorable international publicity and much concrete support, especially from the US, Canada, and the UK.

Important US supporters, in addition to Mr. Soros, were the USA’s flamboyant and highly effective ambassador to Hungary in the late 1980s, Mr. Mark Palmer, who served on IMC’s Board of Directors. The Hungarian-American Enterprise Fund, established by the U.S. President and Congress in 1990 to promote private-sector development in Hungary, provided substantial funds to IMC for the publication and distribution of business books in the country.

Canada was also a generous early supporter. The leadership of York University’s Business School (now the Schulich School) in Toronto provided intellectual capital and was instrumental in generating support for IMC in the Canadian government and business communities. The then Associate Dean for External Affairs at York, Prof. Charles Mayer (who was a visiting professor of Marketing at IMC in 1994 and has been serving as a core Professor of Marketing at CEU Business School since 2001) was especially active. So was the York Business School Dean at the time, Dezso Horvath (who is currently serving an unprecedented fifth term!). He was one of the most active and effective members of the IMC Board until it was disbanded with the merger with the CEU in 2001.

Dean Horvath successfully lobbied the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to support the training of managers in Hungary via IMC. Mayer and Horvath were also IMC’s ambassadors to some of the richest men in Canada, such as Andrew Sarlos and Paul Reichmann (both Hungarian-Canadians). It should also be mentioned that of IMC’s first four deans, three were Canadians.


Four Historical Phases

The 22-year history of CEU Business School can be partitioned into four periods:

1.     1989-1995: IMC offers the first year of a two-year MBA, taught by a distinguished international faculty. Not having a license to grant a degree, it sent its students to complete the second year at one of the brand-name partner business schools in the US, Canada and Western Europe. The partner schools granted the MBA.


2.     1996-2001: IMC became a franchise of the AACSB-accredited Weatherhead School of Management of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Thus, students completing the program (some spending a semester or a year in Cleveland) earned a Case Western MBA.


3.     2002–2010: Following Case Western’s decision to end the degree-granting relationship (its new dean believing that Case should diversify its international partnerships and not put most of its international eggs into the IMC basket), the School became affiliated with CEU. The University’s charter was amended to allow it to grant an MBA (later, UG and MSc business degrees as well). IMC was renamed CEU Business School and started operating as a semi-autonomous unit of the University. This meant that academically the School became fully a part of the University but financially and legally it had remained a separate entity. IMC’s Board of Trustees was disbanded and the CEU Board took over as the School’s main supervisory body.  During 2010 the School became administratively more closely integrated with CEU.

4.     2011 - present: In the beginning of 2011, CEU decided, as one of the University’s major strategic initiatives, to re-launch and grow CEU Business School. A new Dean, Professor Mel Horwitch, assumed this position in January, 2011. He was charged to guide this new phase in the history of CEU Business School. The thrust of this phase (summarized at the end of this essay) is supported by the report of a distinguished international Mission Review Committee (MRC), appointed by CEU Rector John Shattuck. This group—Mel Horwitch served on this body, along with Ben Heineman (now a CEU Board member), Gabor Bojar (a distinguished Budapest-based entrepreneur), and Vincent Dessain (Executive Director of The HBS Europe Research Center) -- assessed CEU Business School. It submitted its report to CEU President/Rector, John Shattuck, in December, 2010. 


Seizing its Potential

Those who were involved with IMC during its early years had every reason to believe that as the first modern management school in the region, supported by Mr. Soros as well as locally and internationally, it had the promise and the potential to become the unquestioned premier, brand-name business school in the region, and establish a strong global reputation. During its first two decades the School strove to seize its potential and achieved significant success in key areas—laying a foundation for the future.

Above all, the School is now clearly viewed as an asset because it makes the University a more multi-sided institution, because of the many research and teaching complementarities between faculties, because the School’s contribution to economic development is one of the important ways in which CEU is fulfilling Mr. Soros’ mission in the region and in other emerging economies, and because CEU Business School can serve as the University’s most direct and mutually beneficial channel to the local, regional, and global business communities. The School also adds a strong business development capability to CEU’s overall mission of furthering an Open Society.



A number of impressive accomplishments by the School can be grouped as follows:

             - Continuous quality of degree programs

             - Student achievements in international competitions

             - Institutes, centers, large grants

             - Executive education programs

             - Faculty accomplishments

             - International study tours


Continuous Quality Improvement of  Degree Programs

Continuous program innovation is a noted quality feature. Here is a quote from the September 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review by a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School:[1]

CEU Business School, located at the crossroads between the developed world of Western Europe and the United States and the developing world of Eastern and Central Europe … has completely revamped its MBA program in 2008 … to create a unique, differentiated curriculum: an MBA in Transnational Leadership. The degree program combines a number of different core and elective elements with the purpose of training leaders who can understand not only business disciplines, but also the broader social, political, economic and ethical drivers – and barriers – to achieving business growth in rapidly changing markets….Now, unexpectedly, its approach to business education may be illuminating for more established business schools as they seek a new way forward.

CEU Business School’s senior executive MBA program, the so-called International Masters in Management (IMM), is delivered as part of a consortium with a leading US, German, and Dutch business schools. For years, the Financial Times has ranked IMM among the top senior executive MBAs in the world; in several years, its degree of internationalization had been ranked as #1.

The Association of MBAs (AMBA), one of the “Big Three” global accrediting agencies of MBA programs, accredits the full-time and executive MBA programs.

The School is partnering for student exchange purposes with 17 business schools around the world, some of them are ranked among the top MBA programs anywhere. Our exchange partners include the Stern School of Business of New York University, the Business School of Emory University, the Schulich School of Business of York University, IPADE in Mexico City, the top-ranked business school in Latin America, and the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, ranked by the Financial Times as the top business school in all of Asia.

All in all, there are reasons to claim that CEU Business School has been offering, continuously, the best business degree program in all of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. Evidence for this is the number of students who have evaluated the programs of all of our regional competitors and then decided to enroll at the School.

One of the two new UG business programs that CEU Business School introduced in 2004 was a dual-degree program with one of Europe’s most prestigious business schools, Bocconi University in Milan. In terms of student recruitment and quality, the program was working to the mutual satisfaction of the partners. The other was CEU’s own BSc in Global Management degree. In the end, although successful, both programs were discontinued because CEU made the strategic decision to offer solely graduate degree programs..

The number of students enrolled at CEU Business School has varied as new programs were added and discontinued. During the 2010-11 Academic Year, the School had 30 full-time MBAs (an intensive, one-year program) plus 5 exchange students, 88 executive MBAs (which they complete over two years, in some cases longer), and 117 UG students who had not yet completed their four-year CEU (39 in the BSc program) or four-year joint CEU-Bocconi degree requirements (78 in the BA program, of whom 20 are still in Budapest and 58 are in Milan).  


Student Achievements in International Competitions

Reflecting CEU Business School’s long-standing emphasis on corporate social responsibility and ethics, our student teams have had impressive achievements in the annual intercollegiate business ethics case competition organized by Loyola Marymount University’s College of Business Administration. Since 1999, 30 teams are competing annually for a place to represent their school at the Annual Business Ethics Competition in Los Angeles.

In 2008, a team from CEU’s MBA-19 group was selected to be in the top 30 teams and awarded with a grant to travel to Los Angeles. The team reached the final top 5.

In 2009, a mixed team of CEU’s MBA-20 full-time group and the part-time EMBA-6 group again reached the top 30, awarded a travel grant and won the first prize in the 10-minutes ethics presentation category.

In 2010, a team from the MBA-21 group again reached the finals, was awarded a travel grant, and won three prizes: first prize in the short ethics presentation, a runner-up prize in the 30 minute presentation, and a special innovation prize.


Institutes, Centers, Large Grants

The Center for Business and Society at CEU Business School has been operating since 2002. It is dedicated to the values of reflective and critical thinking, open society and democracy. Its unique characteristic is its problem-focused research that crosses boundaries: Interdisciplinary cooperation crossing departmental and inter-university boundaries; and multi-stakeholder approach crossing boundaries between academia and business.

The Center offers a forum for consultation, organizes workshops and conferences, and creates speaking opportunities and media events to promote public discourse on business integrity, corporate responsibility and stakeholder cooperation. The Center also contributes to developing solutions for Hungarian and international business leaders to conduct socially responsible business in a supportive moral and legal environment.

The Center participates in international research projects and has received research grants from the European Commission and corporate sources totaling 250,000 EUR.

The Center for Integrity in Business and Government, established in 2011, serves as a regional center of excellence in integrity education, bringing new visibility and credibility to the field. It will deliver integrity courses through graduate, MBA and executive education programs at CEU Business School and at the CEU School of Public Policy, focusing on East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union countries.

The Center is promoting the idea that corporations can remain competitive and governments responsive, while working with integrity, through the substantive involvement of the private and public sectors in the preparation of locally relevant case studies.

The Center's tasks include the development of an integrity education framework, organizing and conducting research on business integrity, and introducing graduate and executive education level courses on integrity.

The Center is also responsible for managing the Siemens Integrity Initiative grant, which in December 2010 provided a USD 3 million grant to CEU. The CEU project is one of 17 that Siemens has selected for support in the first round of its initiative. The grant to CEU is one of the first anti-corruption projects receiving financing from the US$100 million integrity initiative to promote clean markets. This initiative is part of the World Bank-Siemens AG comprehensive settlement of 2009, in the wake of the corruption scandals discovered at German company, which prompted it to implement a comprehensive Compliance Program. Through this grant Siemens wants to share its experiences and promote integrity in business transactions. The CEU Integrity Education Project examines models of behavior that result in high degrees of integrity and good governance across the business and public sectors. Bringing about positive changes in individual behavior as well as in the business and public policy contexts that incentivize corruption is a strong focus of the project. 

CEU Business School Professor Peter Hardi directs both of the above centers.

Initiative for Regulatory Innovation (IRI) is a research center that assesses the current state as well as explores directions for continuous improvement of economic regulation in the region. Bringing together business leaders of regulated enterprises, reform-oriented regulatory officials, and academics distinguished by their deep understanding of the policy and political context of their respective countries, the aim of the IRI is to become a transnational research network that significantly strengthens links between CEU Business School and some of the leading business and public organizations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The co-directors of IRI are CEU Business School Professors Maciej Kisilowki and Bernadett Koles.


Executive Education Programs (EEP)

CEU Business School’s EEP unit was established in 2002. Its key mission is to bridge the School and the business community by offering tailor-made executive programs and Master classes in Hungary and the region.

EEP has had programs throughout the CEE region and in other parts of Europe, with over 8.000 professionals participating in them during the past decade. EEP works with such large firms as Magyar Telekom, GE, Unilever, TEVA, OTP, Sanofi, Raiffeisen, Lufthansa Systems, Pfizer, GENPACT, Ernst & Young, McCann Erickson, KPMG, AIG, Alianz, Hungarian Television, HBO, Erste, Grundfos, Continental, InBev, GSK, RomTel, Philips, National Instruments, Magyar Posta (Hungarian Post), and many more.

Between 2002 and 2008 EEP made steady progress, building a comprehensive program portfolio and an impressive network of corporate contacts. EEP has also contributed to the School’s revenues, increasing revenues from tens of millions of HUF in 2002 to a couple of hundred million HUF in those six years.

With the global financial and economic crisis receding, EEP is again growing and is launching new programs that help meet current challenges that companies and entrepreneurs face. EEP programs offered today also concentrate increasingly on customized talent management in organizations, delivered in modular form, on such topics as crafting strategy, managing change, effective leadership, improved corporate governance, and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.

EEP’s Master classes are delivered by renown professors and other thought leaders both from CEU and from all over the world to share their latest ideas with participating business leaders.


Faculty Accomplishments

The CEU Business School faculty is modest in size. It comprises 15 full-time members, some of whom are research-oriented and some of whom are practitioner-oriented. About ten or so are active in research, and have done their fair share of quality publications: journal editing, books, chapters, refereed journal articles, conference presentations, and case studies.[2] Below is a representative brief and not comprehensive sample of recent academic accomplishments for our research-active faculty (listed in alphabetical order). Mention is also made of international teaching awards.


Akbar, Yusaf, Associate Professor of Management and International Business

Founding Editor and current Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Emerging Markets, published by Emerald, currently in its 6th year.

The Multinational Enterprise and EU Enlargement: The Effects of Regulatory Convergence (London: Palgrave, 2003).

“Multinational Enterprise Strategy, Foreign Direct Investment and Economic Development: The Case of Hungary” (co-author), Journal of World Business, 39 (2004).


Bogel, Gyorgy, Professor of Management

Three books on business innovations related to the info-communications (ICT) industry, plus more than a dozen articles about the same subject, many of them in Hungarian.


Buzady, Zoltan, Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations

„An Absorption-based Model of Leadership  The Journal of the Organization Development,  Volume 42, No. 5 (2011).

Prof. Buzady has been particularly active in developing business case studies, some of which have been published in texbooks and by case clearing houses.


Hardi, Peter, Professor of Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

Co-editor of two books, Evaluating Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development in Europe: Concepts, Evaluation and Applications (Volumes 1 and 2, respectively, in a series (London: Edward Elgar, 2007).

Member of the Editorial Board of the journal, Ecological Indicators: Integrating Sciences for Monitoring, Assessment and Management (London: Elsevier Publishing).


Horwitch, Mel, Dean and University Professor

Ari Ginsberg, Mel Horwitch, Subhendu  Mahapatra, Chhavi Singh, “Ecosystem Strategies for Complex Technological Innovation: The Case of Smart Grid Development,” PICMET ’10 Conference Proceedings, July 18-22, 2010

Mel Horwitch and Bala Mulloth, “The Interlinking of Entrepreneurs, Grassroots Movements, Public Policy and Hubs of Innovation: The Rise of Cleantech in New York City,” Journal of High Technology Management Research, Volume 21, Issue 1 (2010)

Mulloth, Bala and Mel Horwitch ,"The Emerging Complexity of Business and Social Entrepreneurship: Two Clean Technology Ventures in New York City as Cases In Point," Journal of High Technology Management Research, in press (2011)


Kisilowski, Maciej, Assistant Professor of Law and Public Management

Single author of the book, Law of the Nonprofit Sector: A Functional Approach (Warsaw: LexisNexis, 2010).  

Prof. Kisilowski has just completed a fascinating case study, “Bulldogs under the Carpet”, documenting one of the biggest bribery scandals in Poland in recent years.


Koles, Bernadett, Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods

Co-authored with CEU Business School colleague Tibor Voros, “Management Education in a Globalizing World: The Use of Simulations”, 2nd International Conference on Society and Information Technologies, Conference Proceedings (2011).


Lacourbe, Paul, Associate Professor of Operations Management

Has contributed a chapter, “Managing Supply Chains on the Silk Road: Strategy, Performance and Risk”, to a forthcoming book on supply chains (New York: Taylor & Francis, forthcoming).


Marer, Paul, Professor of Business

“The Global Economic Crises: Impacts on Eastern Europe” Acta Oeconomica, Vol. 60, Nos. 1-2 (2010)

Invited presenter at a World Bank conference on Eastern Europe (Budapest, October 2010); keynote speaker at successive USAID conferences on the region (Kiev 2009, Sarajevo 2010, and Budapest 2011).


Martin, Roderick, Professor of Management[3]

Co-author of Investor Engagement: Investors and Management Practice under Shareholder Value (Oxford University Press, 2007).


Mayer, Charles, Professor of Marketing

“The Impact of the New Europe on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in CEE: A Hungarian Perspective” in C. Veloutson, (ed.) Managing Small and Medium Firms in a Changing Environment (Athens, Greece: ATINER,  2009).

“The Impact of EU Accession on Hungarian Small and Medium Sized Enterprises”, Journal of Innovative Marketing, Vol.5, Issue 2, 2009.


Nowak, Jan, Professor of Marketing

A co-authored paper, "Multinational Enterprises and the Competitiveness of Transitional Host Economies", received the Best Paper Award at the Thirteenth Annual Business Congress of the International Management Development Association in Maastricht, The Netherlands, in 2004.  

Prof. Nowak is another faculty member active in writing case studies, some of which have been published in the case-study series of the Richard Ivey School of Business and are being distributed by the Harvard Business School.  


Voros, Tibor, Senior Lecturer of IT Management and Quantitative Studies

Mr. Voros was the 2010 winner of the prestigious CEEMAN Champion Award for innovative teaching.[4] He has been honored for developing and implementing the Boardroom Executive Exercise, a course simulating an international corporate boardroom in order to give students hands-on experience in the transnational business environment. The Exercise is one of the capstone modules of the Transnational Leader course in CEU Business School’s Transnational MBA program

See also his co-authored essay under Koles, Bernadett, above.


International Study Tours

Almost from its founding, CEU Business School has been hosting groups of undergraduate business students, MBAs and Executive MBAs from all over the world to learn about the region in the context of academic programs delivered by CEU Business School faculty and other resource persons, company visits, and cultural experiences.

International study tours typically range between four days and two weeks. In addition to the opportunities for the faculty to present to different types of groups from all over the world, these tours help establish and nurture academic partnerships and aid in recruiting students for the School.

Andrea Szalay has been ably managing this program for nearly two decades.


Toward the Future

The new Dean of CEU Business School, University Professor Mel Horwitch, took the helm at the beginning of 2011. Based on extensive consultation with the faculty of CEU Business School and with the faculty and leadership of the University before and after he became Dean, he has sketched the following vision for the School. Above all, he wants the School’s impact and influence to remain strong in the years to come. Building on the excellent foundation already established, CEU Business School must be better aligned with the management needs of today and tomorrow. Some of the high-priority areas on which he hopes the School to focus and maintain a leadership position include delivering superior management professionalism to transition and emerging economies, showing how high standards in business ethics and integrity are possible and are also good business practices, and becoming a robust academic and business development hub for entrepreneurship and innovation.

We are also distinctive in a key way. Unlike most business schools, CEU Business School has close interdisciplinary collegial and increasingly curricular links within a great university. We aim to design a curriculum that is sufficiently flexible so that our students can study across the University and non-Business School students at CEU Business School. We want to conduct more research with colleagues from other departments of the University and address the big challenges, such as sustainability, integrity, regulatory and financial innovation and social entrepreneurship. We plan to collaborate especially closely with CEU’s new School of Public Policy. All this will be even easier to accomplish once CEU Business School moves to its new home on CEU’s main Nador street campus in about three years.

Although young, CEU Business School already possesses a rich and distinguished heritage. Since its founding over twenty years ago, the School has purposefully striven to be a vehicle for bringing greater management capabilities, prosperity and opportunity to the region.

This original mission still resonates today. However, the School has now committed itself to new thinking, a new curriculum, self-reinvention and newly enhanced research to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, in which economies, firms, professionals and even entrepreneurs are globally inter-linked. Leveraging the School’s impressive legacy on an even larger stage, it will continue to provide knowledge and opportunity for our students and all members of the community. Above all, CEU Business School aspires to help take the University as a whole to new levels by becoming a world-renown hub for entrepreneurship, innovation and professional business practices that also meet the highest standards of integrity. Acting in this fashion, CEU Business School expands the notion of the Open Society to include economic hope and opportunity.



* Written by Professor Paul Marer with revisions by Professor Mel Horwitch and contributions from Professors Maria Findrik and Charles Mayer

[1] Ben W. Heineman, Jr., former Senior VP of GE, member of the MRC of the CEU Business School and now CEU Board member

[2] Even the best business schools have two types of faculty: academically qualified and professionally qualified. Those in the latter group are generally less active in research than those in the former group.

[3]  Was with CEU Business School between 2003 and 2008.

[4] CEEMAN (Central and East European Management Development Association) is an international association of business schools and managers, with 180 institutional and individual members from 43 countries in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia.