In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Central and Eastern Europe was a center of economic thought. Pioneers including Joseph Schumpeter (born in Třešť, in what is today the Czech Republic), Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (Brno, Czech Republic), Ludwig von Mises (Lviv, Ukraine), Carl Menger (Nowy Sącz, Poland), Etienne Laspeyres (Riga, Latvia), and Friedrich Hayek (Vienna, Austria) helped establish the modern scientific paradigm in the field. In the years immediately prior to the Second World War, the Czechoslovak economist Karel Engliš not only contributed to the understanding of the laws of market economics, but applied this knowledge as Czechoslovak Minister of Finance and Rector of Charles University.

After communist domination became ascendant in the region, “economics” as it had been generally known almost died out completely in practice and as a field of study. Exceptions such as János Kornai in Budapest, or the rare Czechoslovak economist who was able to visit the West during Prague Spring in 1967 and 1968 were few and far between. The study of modern economics was kept alive by a few dedicated individuals who organized underground seminars in secret, often at great personal risk. One group at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences managed to obtain a single subscription to the Journal of Political Economy. Every three months when the new issue arrived, they would carefully separate it, with each member responsible for teaching the others the content of one article. Out of this group came members of the first post-communist Czechoslovak government (including the Finance Minister, the Central Bank Governor and the Minister of Trade and Industry) and one of the founders of CERGE-EI.

Origins of CERGE and EI 

Realizing that there was a critical need for both economics professors and policy makers, Josef Zieleniec, the member of the Academy of Sciences group who did not immediately enter government, was tasked with how to train a new generation of economists. Together with Czech émigré Jan Švejnar, then a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, whom he had met at a conference two years prior, Dr. Zieleniec saw immediately that sending students to the US or Western Europe for graduate study was likely to lead to talent leaving the region and, therefore, that it was essential to rapidly establish world-class educational capacity within Central Europe.

In 1990, a core group of funders including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, USAID and the Pew Charitable Trusts had agreed to support a doctoral program at Charles University provided it served not only Czechoslovakia, but the entire transition region. Implementation took an additional year. With the active support of Charles University Rector Radim Palouš, by September 1991 CERGE, the Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education, enrolled its first 12 students, from 7 countries.

In 1992, the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences closed both its Institute of Economics and its Institute of Forecasting, creating in their stead a modern economic research institution, called Národohospodářský ústav (NHÚ) in Czech and the Economics Institute (EI) in English, to carry out scholarly work at the highest international standards.

Merging CERGE and EI 

CERGE and EI shared overlapping goals and interests. When they began working as partners in 1993, the effectiveness of combining education and research, a concept new to the region, was immediately apparent. In 1999, CERGE-EI was officially recognized as a Joint Workplace of Charles University and the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Growth and Influence 

With its strategic location in historic Prague, the heart of Europe, CERGE-EI continues to be recognized as a regional center of excellence in graduate education and research. It has a proven track record of attracting high-quality researchers, faculty and students concerned with the impact of the social, economic and political transition on the CEE/fSU region. (View CERGE-EI's Research Rankings for more information.)

CERGE-EI awarded its first PhD in 1995 to Jacek Cukrowski of Poland, and its 100th to Asel Isakova of Kyrgystan in January 2010. View our Alumni Placements and Alumni Profiles pages for more information.

As a further indication of overall academic quality, CERGE-EI's PhD in Economics was granted an absolute charter by the New York State Department of Education Board of Regents in 2005 and is fully accredited in the Czech Republic by the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports, enabling it to grant both US and Czech degrees

The professional success of CERGE-EI's graduates and the world-class quality of its research attest to its creative environment of intellectual curiosity and scientific rigor. CERGE-EI has won numerous accolades from US governmental institutions, the European Commission, international grant agencies, and research organizations. In 1992 and 1994, the European Community Secretariat of the ACE Programme designated CERGE-EI the only “Recognized Centre of Excellence in Ph.D. Studies in Economics” in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1993 and 1994, CERGE-EI was recognized as a Center of Excellence in Economics Education and Research by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).