Bilateral Partnerships

Below, we present case studies of bilateral university partnerships, compiled by seven of the EUTOPIA universities and three of our Global Partners. These intensive one-to-one collaborations can be kick-started and shaped by a range of different motives and circumstances, and each partnership has a unique story to tell about where it came from and where it is going. At the same time, these stories illustrate the common benefits and challenges of long-term cross-institutional relationships.

Université Internationale de Rabat and Mississippi State University
Stellenbosch University and Lund University
Monash University and University of Warwick
NOVA University Lisbon and University of São Paulo
Babeș-Bolyai University and University of Regensburg
Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Soochow University
Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Universidad Central ‘Marta Abreu’ De Las Villas
University of Ljubljana and University of Rijeka
Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Johns Hopkins University

Université Internationale de Rabat and Mississippi State University 

The Université Internationale de Rabat’s (UIR) partnership with Mississippi State University (MSU) was initiated in 2011. Representatives from both universities discussed collaboration in graduate education and research, to pursue mutual goals and leverage complementary strengths. The partnership developed to include student exchange, doctoral research, and joint-degrees in engineering at diploma, bachelor’s, and master’s level (and there are plans for another joint-degree in computer science).

This partnership has a significant impact on three levels:

  • Institutional: successful joint programmes increase the universities’ appeal to prospective students.
  • Individual: students on joint programmes enjoy personal, academic and professional benefits, as shown by feedback and graduate employment rates.
  • National/international: most UIR-MSU graduates pursue further studies or advance their careers, both in Morocco and abroad.

The partnership’s main strength is the compatibility or complementarity of UIR’s and MSU’s strategic goals, programmes, and resources. The collaboration has also flourished due to high levels of interest and engagement from UIR students, with 67 outgoing mobilities from 2019-2021.

One challenge facing this partnership is that UIR students on joint-degree programmes must pay 50% of MSU tuition fees, which many students cannot afford.

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Stellenbosch University and Lund University

Stellenbosch University’s (SU) partnership with Lund University (LU) grew out of informal research and mobility collaboration in the early 2000s. This relationship was formalised in the early 2010s through a Memorandum of Understanding, a Student Exchange Agreement, and a large delegation from LU to discuss present and future opportunities. The delegation included many senior representatives from both universities, and a large gathering of deans, vice-deans and students at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS). Both universities had strong policies supporting collaboration in Africa, and LU was keen to learn more about the South African higher education and research landscape.

The partnership entails student and staff exchange which promotes teaching, training, learning, curriculum development and capacity development between the two institutions. In 2017-21, SU saw 6 outgoing and 11 incoming semester-long student exchanges, as well as 3 outgoing and 2 incoming staff exchanges. The partnership produced 44 co-publications in 2019-2020, across a very wide range of disciplines.

From the begninng, the partnership was fostered through networks such as Intra-ACP, EUROSA, SANORD, and SASUF (which facilitate European/South African connections). Both universities are very hands-on in the SU-founded Town and Gown network, which explores the mutual impacts of universities and the towns in which they are situated. It has 12 members, including KU Leuven, Göttingen, and Coventry.

Participation in these networks benefits students, as well as enhancing SU’s and LU’s SDG-related research and enabling the partnership to collaborate with a diverse range of institutions, fulfilling strategic goals and giving access to external funds. Over the years, mobility and collaboration have focused especially on Manufacturing & Processing, Economics, and (most recently) Economic & Management Sciences and Natural Sciences. Research collaboration with LU through the SASUF network has impacted SU’s perspective on the setup and coordination of other networks.

LU was also the technical partner in the SU-coordinated Transdisciplinary Training for Resource Efficiency and Climate Change (TRECCAfrica) project, a consortium of six African universities. The two project phases, TRECCAfrica I and II, have focused on climate change, agriculture, science, food science, engineering, and governance. The scheme has created over 80 student mobilities, 92 staff mobilities, and partnerships between various African institutions. Apart from creating valuable networks, it has also built capacity across the continent to find African solutions to African problems.

The partnership is governed by agreements with set goals, requiring collective input by the two institutions. A range of platforms enable colleagues to give feedback and share ideas regarding the development of the partnership. The student council chairpersons from each university have worked closely together.

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Monash University and University of Warwick

In 2012, Monash and Warwick embarked on a partnership with the intent of enabling similar-aged research-intensive universities to combine forces and promote complementary research, student internationalisation, innovation, and improved operating models (addressing infrastructure/planning challenges) in both institutions. Informal collaborations had already demonstrated the alignment of the two cultures before the official formation of the alliance. In the last 10 years, the alliance has become a model of good practice, and helped to shape the way Monash engages with other institutions.

The Monash Warwick Alliance (MWA) is governed by the Alliance Steering Committee (ASC), which is co-chaired by Professors Abid Khan and Mike Shipman. The ASC meets quarterly with a membership of both universities’ senior executives, and provides oversight to finances, governance, partnerships, risk, and activity outputs.

Engagement with external stakeholders is usually led by specific academics and projects, but the alliance is now robust enough to carry out this engagement at a strategic and collective level. 

Joint international initiatives with a substantial time-zone difference, different local regulations, and different financial years, can be challenging for students and staff. Covid has highlighted the need to rely less on physical mobility, and Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) approaches have helped to create enriching experiences for students. During the pandemic the examination teams shared best practices for online-only assessments.


Monash and Warwick are each other’s largest student mobility partners (over 1000 students have engaged so far), with students travelling not only to Monash but also its Asia-based campuses.

The alliance also facilitates a range of joint education activities (such as international modules, internships, conferences, a joint master’s in Journalism, the Green Steps sustainability programme, and the Global Leaders Experience) that promote co-learning and undergraduate research. Funding is available to support student-led activities, and there have been joint student conferences on Philosophy & Ethics and social enterprise. Students (from undergraduate to PhD) are able to enhance their CVs with skills development activities. These opportunities are embedded holistically across all departments, enabling both universities to flourish in unforeseen ways.

Thanks to the alliance, there is higher student engagement in social/environmental programmes, and with Monash’s international campuses. Low-income students at Monash now participate in leadership programmes at higher levels than ever before. After graduating, many students have also gone on to lead alliance initiatives or pursue joint studies.

There is a healthy level of staff exchange between the Monash Education Academy (MEA) and the Warwick International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA). A new education funding programme and joint education strategy are also in preparation.


There are 12 collaborative research projects underway, and new funding opportunities have opened up in 2022 as Covid has become more manageable. A new research strategy is being prepared, and there are plans to foster more engagement between joint-research initiatives and external organisations, as well as coordinating research projects so they align with the universities’ missions regarding global socioeconomic impact.

The alliance has produced more than 1000 joint publications, and the percentage of joint studies published in Q1 (top-ranking) journals is higher than either institution individually. Both partners have also enjoyed great success in securing external grants and hosting joint-PhDs, providing the UK and Australia with new researchers who know how to navigate global networks.

Monash has a substantial number (5+) of major Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence – Australia’s largest funding allocations by its major research funding organisations – that involve Warwick as a partner. This is a clear example of joint impact as these are the acknowledged largest-scale collections of experts around key areas of interest to society.

In terms of innovation, recent joint projects in Anti-Microbial Resistance, High Energy Particle Physics, population health, sustainable manufacturing, and bio-imaging have yielded significant achievements: for example, leveraging Monash’s leadership in microscopy techniques has led to new capabilities in Warwick. Large-scale AMR work involving post-doctoral researchers, and a CERN partnership and student exchanges for HEPP, are also being planned. Seed funding is available to support innovation projects and commercialisation opportunities. Identifying opportunities and matching skill-sets can be challenging between two large institutions.


Administrative staff, especially when they have access to funding, help to ease the pressure on academic staff facilitating the above-mentioned programmes.

In the early years of the alliance, teams across finance, communications, HR, graduations, global engagement, widening participation, and industry all came together to share best practice. These collaborations have enriched student experiences at all levels, resulted in new campus features such as the big screen on Monash’s Clayton campus, created novel approaches to industry engagement (through dialogue with WMG), and developed a common approach to HR systems.

Staff exchanges are managed centrally to enable equitable engagement for all departments. The significant changes in how Monash operates have been maintained across 10 years and several changes in management.

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NOVA University Lisbon and University of São Paulo


NOVA’s partnership with the University of São Paulo (USP) was formed on the basis of the latter’s status as the largest and most prestigious Brazilian university for education and research, with around 100,000 students, courses across disciplines, and a strong multicultural environment. Over the last decade, USP has invested strongly in the development of online platforms that provide access to courses, events and recorded classes in all areas of knowledge.

Before NOVA transformed into a Public Foundation, partnership agreements were established directly between NOVA Schools and the different departments at USP. Today, the partnership is governed centrally. NOVA and USP are preparing to sign a new umbrella agreement that will put together more than 14 parallel protocols, allowing for more transparent and effective management.


The partnership entails staff and student exchange across many disciplines, as well as a joint PhD in Communication & Data Science. More joint degrees are planned, especially in the fields of Engineering and Business.

There have been 80 incoming and 25 outgoing mobilities in 2017-2022 (with reduced numbers due to the pandemic in 2020). Student mobility promotes graduate study at the host university, as well as contributing to both partners’ intercultural diversity and international profile. 

The partnership benefits from the strong historical, cultural, and linguistic links between the universities, as well as the fact that they both offer degrees across all disciplines and enjoy a strong network of contacts. It also benefits from the new Erasmus+ Programme (2021-2027), which enables funding for education collaboration (student, teaching, and non-teaching mobility) to third countries not associated to the Programme, such as Brazil.

Differences in terms of tuition fees and study-cycle durations can create problems, as can the fact that the Brazilian HE system does not follow the Bologna Reform: this can impede student mobility, degree recognition (although NOVA’s status enables them to address this), and joint degrees. 


The partnership has produced 944 co-publications in 2012-2022, primarily in Physics & Astronomy, Medicine, and Engineering. There are plans for new joint research projects focusing on Global Health. The partnership’s research outputs have a very high impact as measured by the Field–Weighted Citation Impact (10.03, about nine times the global average).

The current Brazilian government considers universities to be politically biased, and has reduced research funding. This reduction in federal (public) funding drove most federal universities to bankruptcy, and heavily impacted national research activity. This situation was exacerbated by poor management of Covid at the federal level. All this poses a potential obstacle to the NOVA/USP collaboration. However, USP is a State University whose budget depends on the São Paulo state budget (the richest State in Brazil), meaning USP is less affected by federal restrictions than other public universities. São Paulo State’s Research Financing Agency (FAPESP - Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) is well connected to European and US financing agencies.

There are opportunities for joint research funding in EU frameworks, but packages for Latin America do not consider the continental dimension of the country, posing strange restrictions. For example, capacity-building projects in Latin America require two countries from the region (e.g. Panama and Costa Rica), but for a country the size of Brazil this restriction does not make sense.

There are agreements for innovation-centred cooperation in the Social Sciences, Humanities, Medicine & Health, and Science & Technology. There are also close collaborations between NOVA’s department of Materials & Nanotechnology and USP’s Polytechnic School of Engineering, and between NOVA’s Institute of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and USP’s Biomedicine Science Institute (focusing on malaria). Two outputs were patented in 2015: a stimuli-responsive composite material for the detection of high value gas or vapor phase analytes (useful in a range of contexts such as environmental monitoring or food and hygiene), and a process of synthesis and stabilisation of nanoparticles. The partnership aims to foster the creation of start-ups that will stimulate the innovation ecosystem in both universities, both cities, both countries, and ultimately in both continents.

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Babeș-Bolyai University and University of Regensburg


Babeș-Bolyai University’s (UBB) partnership with the University of Regensburg (UR) was formed in 2009, in order to institutionalise existing cooperation programmes in different fields. UBB’s German-language study programmes and multicultural character are conducive to cooperation with German universities.

The partnership supports collaborative projects through direct contact between faculty members, departments, institutes, and other research centres subject to the provisions of the agreement.

The partnership’s legal representatives are the rectors of UR and UBB, and each project has its own coordinators. The administrative aspects are governed by the Europaeum (East-West Centre) and International Relations Office at UR and the Centre for International Cooperation (CIC) and Institute of German studies (IDLF) at UBB.

The partnership entails cooperation with several external partners:

  • Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies Regensburg
  • Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies (Ludwig-Maximilians-University München and UR)
  • DAAD - German Academic Exchange Service
  • Romanian Ministry of Education
  • Institutul Cultural Român (Romanian Cultural Institute)

These institutions help to define and frame aspects of the partnership, as well as providing financial support, engaging with research projects, and advertising cooperation programmes. Mobilities for teaching and admin staff are facilitated by the DAAD’s programme for partnerships with Eastern institutions (as well as by Erasmus), and these will be further developed in future as they contribute to sharing and overall cooperation between the partners.


The Secondos Programme (which UBB joined in 2015) is coordinated by UR and aimed at people with a second linguistic/cultural background, in this case UR students with Romanian heritage. These students can undertake study exchanges and internships that are tailored to their needs and open up new career opportunities, as well as revitalising their relationship to their heritage country and overcoming the challenges entailed by having a second background (which the students sometimes perceive as a handicap).

The programme is supported by the Europaeum (East-West Centre) at UR (set up to promote dialogue between universities in Eastern and Western Europe), and by the CIC and the Department for Romanian Language, Culture, and Civilisation at UBB. UR also coordinates this programme with several other universities, but they interact with UR and not with each other.

There have been 10 incoming mobilities (8 financed by Erasmus) and 4 double-degree mobilities (3 financed by Erasmus), although the attempt to run a double-degree programme faced administrative obstacles at UR. The Europaeum of UR has won two prizes for Secondos: the Deutscher Arbeitgeberpreis (German Employers’ Award) in 2011, and the ‘go out! study worldwide’ award from the DAAD and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Bavaria in 2014. These have given the programme recognition beyond the academic world.

UBB’s course in Romanian as a heritage language (as opposed to a foreign language) is a significant innovation, and could serve as an exemplary good practice in terms of European integration and the integration of refugees. UBB aims to secure international funding for this programme, as well as integrating it into the curriculum (with ECTS credits) and developing it through remote and on-site courses such as a summer school.

Collaboration with the Romanian language chair at UR has led to new developments in UR’s Romanian language course and in the Romanian language provision for visiting students at UBB (such as a language ‘survival-kit’, aimed at staff as well as students). One limitation here is that the Romanian Ministry of Education selects the Romanian language lecturers, and often selects them from universities other than UBB.


The Tandem Programme facilitates one-week exchanges for 8-10 students from each university to conduct empirical research on German and Romanian Culture and Civilisation, then reflect on the experience in the form of creative reports. This means that students are qualified both as ambassadors and travel guides for the two cultural environments. Students’ essays are published in a bilingual Tandem Book, of which there have been two editions so far. Activities occurred online during the pandemic, but are due to be re-scheduled as on-site visits. There have been 10 iterations of the programme involving around 200 students and 15 staff.

Tandem is regarded as a model of good practice in facilitating academic networking between Eastern and Western Europe, especially in the context of the growing interest in Eastern Europe among Western European students. The administrative support of the Europaeum, and the operation of the programmes described in this report, make such cooperation feasible.

The Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies Regensburg facilitates a variety of research exchange and cooperation activities, including sharing of results and joint publications.

The Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies oversees joint programmes and summer schools for PhD students in cooperation with the Ludwig-Maximilians-University München and University of Regensburg. Two summer schools have been run so far.

UR was also a member of the consortium POSDRU (led by UBB in 2009-2012), which promoted innovative doctoral studies in a knowledge-based society, co-financed by the European Social Fund through the Sectoral Operational Program for Human Resources Development 2007-2013. The other partners were the University of Vienna and the Romanian Academy Branch Cluj-Napoca. 20 doctoral students engaged with this programme and several publications and conferences resulted.

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Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Soochow University


Ca’ Foscari’s partnership with Soochow is based on long-standing scholarly collaboration and exchange. The cities of Venice and Suzhou (also known as Soochow, ‘the Venice of the East’) are both characterised by systems of canals and bridges, and were the first European and Chinese cities to be officially twinned in 1980.

In 2017, Ca’ Foscari launched its ‘Offices in the World’ project, with the first office in Soochow. The purpose was to maintain regular contact with China, produce impactful research, education, and cultural initiatives, and disseminate Italian language and culture in China. The office is managed by the Director of the International Office at Ca’ Foscari, and by a Chinese colleague who works onsite.

Despite the differences in working methods (which can be problematic and affect staff motivation), this long-standing collaboration benefits from diversity, good communication and efficiency, the linguistic and cultural competences of the staff involved, and the mediating function of the office in Soochow.

Having this office as a reference point in the partner institution, with one staff member working onsite for five months a year, is hugely beneficial in facilitating dialogue, monitoring projects efficiently, and fostering new collaborations. It also enables multi-level cooperation, with research and mobility projects intersecting and cross-fertilising over time. The office is able to work flexibly, for instance by transitioning from in-person to smart working when required. There are plans to set up a similar office to represent Soochow in Ca’ Foscari.


The partnership facilitates student mobility, including Erasmus+ KA171 International Credit Mobility in 2018 and 2019. There have been 500 overseas and ICM mobilities (incoming and outgoing), and exchange students have contributed to the partnership’s online communications through blogs and videos about their experiences.

Soochow partners with Ca’ Foscari’s School for International Education on a summer programme in Italian culture (with a particular focus on Venice), comprising 30 hours of classes and site visits across five days. Visiting students, as well as learning about Italian culture, have opportunities to share their own culture with the instructors, students, and local residents.

In 2018 a collaboration between Ca’ Foscari, Soochow, and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China enabled three Ca’ Foscari students to undertake a one-month language course and a six-month internship at the Chamber of Commerce.  

Ca’ Foscari is also planning to run further training projects for students and co-tutelle PhDs in the field of linguistics, as well as placements for Ca’ Foscari students at Soochow.

These activities have been highly beneficial for all stakeholders, and for the two regions (e.g. economic stakeholders like the Chamber of Commerce and Municipality of Soochow).


See the webpage Research: Ca' Foscari in China for an overview of the partnership’s research activities, facilitated by the Soochow Office. Researchers from both institutions have launched the umbrella project entitled ‘Venice and Suzhou: Two Cities, Three Bridges’, which groups together research efforts in three different study areas: language and culture; water science and technology; and management and business. Research is developed through staff and student mobility, as well as two workshops per year (one in each university). The project is supervised  by two academic coordinators, one per each institution and funded by contributions from both universities. Two publications have resulted, and a proceedings of a conference will be published soon in open access.

Other research projects include ‘Waterscapes as Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Tourism: The Hydrographic Network in Suzhou - From Blossom to Fruit’ and ‘Improving Water Quality with Advanced Materials for the Removal and Recovery of Contaminants in Natural Waters’. These projects are generating new interests, activities, and proposals, and funding is currently being requested (from Chinese local authorities) for a new project.

Research projects benefit from the support of institutions like the Chamber of Commerce and the Municipality of Soochow, and from the productive differences between research approaches (e.g. Soochow works at a faster pace, is less theoretical, and is more connected with enterprises). These differences can also be problematic and demotivating at times.

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Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Universidad Central ‘Marta Abreu’ De Las Villas


VUB’s partnership with Universidad Central ‘Marta Abreu’ De Las Villas (UCLV) was formed in the context of Belgian government funding for University Development Cooperation (UDC), which amounts to around €60m a year divided between the French and Flemish communities. The Flemish budget is channelled through the Secretariat of University Development Cooperation of the Flemish University Council (VLIR-UOS) by means of competitive calls. Due to the nature of this funding, the output scale tips towards UCLV. The collaboration is managed by the International Relations Office in collaboration with the involved academics.

This partnership is supported by stable, secure, and clearly structured management, as well as a culture of respect, transparency, and trust between the two partners. Despite the complexity of the project and occasional communication problems, VUB has maintained continuous commitment to the collaboration.

The emigration of lecturers from Cuba can sometimes cause issues in the partnership. There are sometimes practical problems around the purchase and shipment of office materials, lab equipment, and ICT due to regulations in Cuba. 


Collaboration in the late 90s was based on UCLV’s need to research biotechnology and pig-breeding, and entailed the installation of internet capability at UCLV. This project led to collaboration with other VUB researchers and other Flemish universities on a range of projects.

The partnership has grown over the years, securing funding for a range of education and research programmes. It enables VUB and UCLV to profit from each other’s networks, e.g. in dialogue with the Cuban entrepreneurial sector or Latin-American networks. It has also made UCLV a national reference in the field of Agricultural Sciences and strengthened its overall capacity to implement projects and publish high-impact research.

There are mobility programmes funded by the EU and the Flemish government’s Department of Education and Training. Mobility is distributed as follows between the three main collaboration types: 65% research, 25% education, 10% administration. These categories often overlap.

VUB coordinated the Institutional University Cooperation (IUC) Programme (2003-2013), which involved UCLV and the five Flemish universities and was funded by VLIR-UOS to pursue research and education projects (to the amount of €6.5m). The aim was also to generate more publications and a higher number of graduated PhDs in thematic areas defined by the strategic plan of UCLV. This project resulted in 50-80 incoming and 15-25 outgoing mobilities per year, as well as 85 PhDs and 800 published manuscripts (300 of which were in peer-reviewed journals or proceedings). Thanks to this project, UCLV’s ICT infrastructure also developed considerably, including ICT-focused courses (listed below) and the setting up of a high-performance computing data centre.

The Network Programme on ICT (2004-2024) was built on this groundwork. This programme is coordinated by VUB and includes Flemish and Cuban universities (the latter coordinated by UCLV), exploring ICT in terms of research, infrastructure, and capacity to support educational processes and knowledge management. Network facilitates seminars, online courses, training, and workshops. It has a grant of €2.5m and facilitates 15-25 incoming and 8-10 outgoing mobilities per year.

UCLV and VUB are currently partners in the implementation of the FOURIER project, which is part of the EU programme to support Cuba’s energy policy and has a grant of €3m. The participation of VUB is focused on administrative support, joint research, and joint PhDs. The EU chose UCLV for this partly on the basis of their partnership with VUB, which has proven their capacity to manage projects.

The partnership has resulted in the creation of a Faculty of Information and Education Sciences at UCLV, the introduction of new lectures in many UCLV study programmes, a master’s programme in New Technologies for Education, and training courses on educational web applications, Web 2.0 application/programming techniques, and social networks.

In 2014, through a unique agreement between VUB and the Cuban National Commission for Scientific Degrees (2014), a one-time Cuba-VUB joint-PhD fund was approved, for which several UCLV candidates applied. UCLV has also received grants from VUB’s Universitas funding, through which academics can apply for master’s or PhD grants.

VUB and UCLV have collaborated on a winter school on big data that involved knowledge exchange with industry participants, and provided PhDs and post-docs with training and networking opportunities. One industry participant was Biocubafarma, a biotech/pharmaceutical R&D consortium, and the VUB/UCLV partnership is now in dialogue with them regarding the use of supercomputers and big data in virus and vaccine research. 

A joint master’s programme in AI, combined with a scholarship programme, is planned for the future.

Additional notes

VUB also highlights two international projects besides the partnership with UCLV:

Joint education models: VUB oversees joint programmes with universities in Latin America and China who have four- or five-year bachelor programmes. Very able students are selected (through an interview with the programme director) to join the master’s programme at VUB after their third year in their home university. These students are thereby able to obtain an MA faster than they would at their home university (i.e. in five years instead of six or seven).

Group mobility arrangements: VUB oversees group mobility arrangements with ELON University, USA, and Western Cape University, South Africa. The objective is to stimulate outgoing student mobility and to promote structured cooperation between the VUB and international HEIs. Each group mobility arrangement preferably involves at least 10 students and each student has to obtain at least 15 ECTS at the host institution.

Upon availability of funding, VUB launches a call, offering €15,000 to provide:

  • Support for the development and management of the group mobility
  • Co-financing (not necessarily covering all extra costs related to the stay abroad) for outgoing students to participate in the group mobility

Group mobility activities bring the following benefits:

  • Good knowledge of procedures of the partner university
  • Fixed mobility windows in curricula
  • Fewer administrative hurdles (files relate to groups, not individuals)
  • Better control of quality assurance
  • Less effort to convince students
  • Services (housing) can be well regulated
  • Students experience less anxiety
  • Sense of inclusion in the joint community
  • Higher success rates
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University of Ljubljana and University of Rijeka


The University of Ljubljana’s (UL) partnership with the University of Rijeka Rijeka (UNIRI) was motivated by links between the universities’ historic and cultural backgrounds, their geographical vicinity, and the lack of language barriers between them. UL’s overall intent in fostering this partnership is to spark wide and deep cooperation in the HE field of the Western Balkans region. The partnership serves as a platform for brainstorming on innovative education and research methods.

The partnership began in 1998 with a general agreement (at the central level) regarding staff and student exchange, followed by inter-institutional Erasmus+ agreements, and a growing range of activities in the years since then.

The partnership benefits from harmonised decision-making at the university level, fast and frequent communications, mutual trust and willingness to deepen the cooperation from the two partners, and support from ministries and HE policies in Slovenia and Croatia. It can be hampered by a lack of funding and some legislative barriers.

In addition to the activities below, there are plans to arrange seminars and study visits for university administrators in various fields, and to establish a network of project managers to share experiences in setting up project teams, writing project applications, and managing projects. Training in strategy and policy development would be provided for HE managers. These experiences would be shared not only among the network but also more widely through interregional conferences.


Partnership activities include:

  • Staff and student exchange (21 incoming mobilities from UNIRI in 2019-21)
  • Education and research collaboration within the Regional Platform for Benchmarking and Cooperation in Higher Education and Research, and the Rector’s Forum of Southeast Europe and Western Balkans
  • Teaching Slovene studies at UNIRI and lectureship in Slavonic language (modern Croatian and Serbian) at UL
  • Joint PhDs in Governance and Economics in the public sector (accredited in 2017 and first offered in 2017/2018)

In the future, there are plans to introduce:

  • Double and joint degrees, summer schools, supported by simultaneous machine translation
  • Student conferences, business/innovation contests
  • Better promotion for staff and student mobility
  • Expand language training (e.g. Year Plus programme) to support exchanges
  • Extracurricular training and skills development for students (e.g. academic skills, career development), interdisciplinary student projects, awards for best research and innovation results, best articles, best start-ups
  • Scholarships for degree-seeking students (e.g. for deficit professions, programmes being promoted)

The partnership has resulted in the establishment of the Centre for Advanced Studies Southeast Europe in the field of humanities at UNIRI. Drawing on the experience of navigating legislative procedures entailed by this activity, there are plans to establish similar centres in Engineering & Technology at UL, and in the Arts at the University of Belgrade.


The partnership has overseen research collaboration within the EU projects:

  • Healthcare as a Public Space: Social Integration and Social Diversity in the Context of Access to Healthcare in Europe, ERA NET, 2019-2022
  • Joint Training on Numerical Modelling of Highly Flexible Structures for Industrial Applications, HORIZON 2020, 2019-2023

There have been 223 co-publications since 1999. The setting up of a doctoral school at UNIRI was supported by exchange of experiences with UL.

Other research collaborations are proposed for the future:

  • Western Balkan Research Fund: annual selection of 2-3 collaborative projects to connect Western Balkan researchers; projects will be funded for two years with the intent of applying for competitive funding programmes (e.g. Horizon)
  • WBEX - Western Balkan Experts: this database will facilitate the engagement of experts from the regional universities and their affiliated experts abroad to participate in PhD juries and promotion committees, be invited as guest lecturers, researchers, reviewers, etc.
  • WBRI - Western Balkan Research Infrastructure: a research equipment database to enable sharing of expensive equipment for PhD studies and specific research projects
  • Training of administrative and research staff in project proposal writing and project coordination
  • Research assessment reform
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Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Johns Hopkins University


UPF’s partnership with Johns Hopkins University (JHU), initiated in 1996, was initially based on shared contacts in the field of Public Health and Public and Social Policy. In 2013, the JHU-UPF Public Policy Centre was founded with the aim of analysing wellbeing and health (with a focus on North America and Europe) and providing intersectoral collaboration/dissemination opportunities for students and researchers. The Public Policy Centre, situated on the UPF Ciutadella campus, is designed to facilitate collaboration but also operate as an entity on its own, with transversal ties to a range of UPF units, enabling it to contribute to the university’s overall Planetary Wellbeing policy.

The partnership is co-directed by the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHU) and the Department of Political and Social Science (UPF). Academic coordinators in both institutions operate the centre and agree on activities. They report and are accountable to the Vice-Rector. A report on research and finances is submitted before the renewal of the agreement.

The main staff of the Public Policy Centre comprise 20 members, including senior researchers, visiting researchers, and PhD students.

The combination of research and professional approaches, through engagement with local agents in public health, is a particular strength of this collaboration, as it enables impact beyond the traditional academic setting. So far, the educational programmes have limited scope, and there is potential to permeate further into the curriculum and the institutions.


JHU and the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB), in collaboration with UPF, deliver the Fall Institute, which provides intensive courses (in English) for public health professionals and students, focused on current issues such as Climate Change. The courses are equivalent to graduate-level Bloomberg School courses and can be taken for credit (though recognition of credits and degrees can be a challenge). Hundreds of professionals and students engage in the programme each November.

The Public Policy Centre strengthens students’ and professionals’ understanding of social/health policy issues through a Master’s in Public and Social Policies, run by the UPF Barcelona School of Management (UPF-BSM) in collaboration with JHU.

There are plans to expand the universities’ virtual collaboration in education.


The partnership also facilitates mobility for researchers (postgraduates and professors), and helps to attract funds and research talent. It is well connected to an international network of associated research centres.

The Public Policy Centre addresses complex global challenges through a broad range of knowledge and tools in the areas of: inequality and poverty; climate and environment; international and EU governance and policy; work and employment; health and wellbeing. The Centre is working to augment the production of research projects through the generation of Serial Reports (two or three annually) leading to policy briefs, dissemination seminars, and publications.

In 2015-2021, the Centre generated 94 journal articles, 36 reports, books, or chapters, and many Knowledge Transfer activities (seminars, debates, conferences, and media interventions). In recent years it has also attracted postdoctoral fellows from competitive programmes. Members of the Centre supervise early-career researchers, supporting the production of high-impact publications.

This collaboration also has the capacity to foster innovations addressing global challenges. Many of the Knowledge Transfer activities referred to above explore topics such as climate change, the Venezuelan crisis, global wealth inequalities, and more. In 2019, UPF hosted the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM)’s largest ever International Conference with over 310 people from five continents registered to attend. The Centre’s Climate & Health newsletter has a growing mailing list of over 640 subscribers.

The Centre is preparing an annual series of working papers with interviews, debates, and opinion pieces making theoretical and practical proposals for real-life social implementation, as well as a public seminar series for members to present their work. They also plan to hold an international conference/seminar every 2-3 years.

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