Multilateral Partnerships and Networks

The EUTOPIA Alliance is an innovative multilateral partnership, and it draws upon its members’ experiences with similarly ground-breaking university networks. In the six case studies below, we showcase the different types of multilateral collaboration our partners engage in, with a particular emphasis on how such partnerships can strengthen regional engagement and regional identity, precisely through a broadened international perspective.

Kyungpook National University and GETM3
Technische Universität Dresden’s Regional Partnerships in Poland
CY Cergy Paris Université and IRL IPAL
University of Gothenburg and Nordic Centre Fudan
Universitat Pompeu Fabra and A4U, CASA, Europaeum
Vrije Universiteit Brussel and International Joint Research Groups

Kyungpook National University and GETM3

The GETM3 project (Global Entrepreneurial Talent Management: Students, Universities & Industry) was launched in 2017 by a partner combination of Kyungpook National University (KNU), the University of Northumbria, the University of Ljubljana, the University of Warsaw, and the Technical University of Dublin. Northumbria is the lead partner, but the project is managed through regular partner meetings in each country.

The rationale for GETM3 is to:

  • Combine the partners’ strengths in business, engineering, and computer science
  • Combine partners’ local connections with industry (private companies, local government, and NGOs)
  • Explore synergies between students, universities and industry
  • Determine whether universities are preparing students for the workplace according to the real needs of industry

The partnership involves two-month secondments for academic staff at each university, for the purposes of teaching or research activities. In the future, there are plans to embed secondments in summer schools or via new virtual classroom modalities.

The partnership has resulted in:

  • Over 20 co-publications
  • A four-year grant from the EU under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7)
  • Over 100 international staff secondments
  • Extended engagement of academic staff (beyond the normal participants) in international collaboration
  • Strengthened networking among academic staff involved, internationally and with local industry

The project has benefitted from the fact that the partners already knew each other and had a strong motivation to work together. Key players in each institution help to sustain this level of motivation.

Collaborations have so far been limited to certain departments, and secondments have been halted by the pandemic. However, other areas of the project have continued to flourish, and there are plans to expand the number of departments involved in the future.

Back to the top of the page

Technische Universität Dresden’s Regional Partnerships in Poland


TU Dresden (TUD) established this partnership with regional partner universities in Poland in 2014. The partnership was driven by political support to strengthen ties with Saxony’s bordering countries and regions in order to strengthen the Tri-State area: Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany (Saxony). TUD’s regional partnership in Wrocław (Poland) involves various universities including the University of Wrocław, Wrocław University of Science and Technology, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Wrocław Medical University, and Wrocław University of Economics and Business.

Regional experts in the International Office are the first points of contact and coordinators for this partnership. Regional partnerships like this typically involve colleagues who work in student exchange, campus culture, and research collaboration, in addition to key stakeholders at the faculties and schools involved.

The partnership oversees extensive education and research activities (see below), as well as exchanges of HR staff development plans.

There is also close collaboration with policy makers, primarily Saxony’s Prime Minister and their office for EU and International Affairs. TUD work with funding organisations that develop new programmes with regional or research foci in order to secure funding for the partnership activities. Partnerships with Polish universities also involve business partners and cultural organisations.

The partnership benefits from the partners’ geographical proximity, and from high levels of commitment from partners on both sides, including faculty members, students, policy-makers, and funding organisations. In general, Polish-German relations are of very high importance on the national / European stage, so there is a strong political will to support partnerships that bring the regions of Poland and Germany together through teaching and research collaboration/exchange. In addition, a multitude of academic and non-academic partners aligns this multilateral partnership with local and regional objectives and maximises the impact of the partnership on society.

Challenges include:

  • Occasional lack of mutual interest (e.g. more will for dentistry collaboration from Wrocław than from Dresden)
  • Language barriers
  • Students choosing other study-abroad destinations
  • Not always sufficient funding
  • Some activities (such as those with an innovation focus) are hard to coordinate as they involve many different partners from business, academia and politics


Education-focused collaborations include:

  • Joint workshops (including career workshops) for students, graduates, early-career researchers, and faculty
  • Guest lectureships
  • Summer schools on Jewish Studies, Diaspora Studies, Minority Studies
  • In progress: joint degree programme in photogrammetry

In 2018, there were about 10 incoming and 17 outgoing student mobilities. As well as fostering the important Polish-German connections mentioned above, these exchanges help to internationalise the universities’ curricula.


There are joint research projects in the fields of Classical Philology, Eastern European History, Engineering (Natural Materials), Ecology and Urban Development, Biochemistry, and Digital Culture.

Projects benefit from complementary strengths in these areas, and the resulting jointly organised exhibitions receive a lot of public attention.

There have been 23 joint publications since 2011, and there are currently two joint EC grants in progress. TUD regularly co-organise the Saxon-Polish Day of Innovation, which features workshops and public events on joint cultural, research, and business activities in the regions.

TUD is planning a workshop with faculty members who want to collaborate with partners in Wrocław, to identify topics, formats and funding programmes.

The partnership has also submitted a joint application for funding to found a new research institute, which will include an entrepreneurship component. This institute could have a huge impact as it would develop solutions for post-industrial regions in both countries, which is a very pressing issue.

Back to the top of the page

CY Cergy Paris Université and IRL IPAL


CY joined IRL IPAL in 2021. The other partners are CNRS, Université Grenoble Alpes, Institut Mines Telecom, National University of Singapore (NUS) and A*Star, and the director is Dr. Christophe Jouffrais (CNRS). The goal of IPAL is to bring sustainable benefits to French and Singaporean computer science research communities through:

  • Research hub in Singapore to connect ASEAN and European researchers
  • Publications, prototypes, research contracts, copyrights and patents to create common ground in Computer Science
  • Incubation space for French/European researchers to engage with South-East Asian research trends
  • R&D support to French/European industries to develop innovative services/technologies in Singapore and South-East Asia

History and activities

IPAL is a CNRS International (French-Singaporean) Research Laboratory (IRL 2955), based in Singapore. It was founded in 1998 as a special overseas CNRS Research Project in order to create a framework for collaborative research projects including CNRS, NUS, and A*Star. This first research structure moved to the status of CNRS Research Group in 2000.

In 2007, IPAL became a CNRS IRL (the highest label among the CNRS international programs). The IRL agreement was signed in January 2007, for an initial period of 4 years (renewable), between the CNRS (INS2I institute), A*Star (I2R Institute), NUS (School of Computing), and the University of Grenoble-Alpes, France. The agreement was renewed in 2011 and 2015, with additional partners (Institut Mines Telecom, France, and Sorbonne University, France).

In 2019, the IPAL agreement was extended for two more years in order to prepare a new scientific programme focused on Artificial Intelligence, starting in 2021. The main partners involved in this new programme are the three founding partners (CNRS, A*STAR, and NUS), with University of Toulouse 3 (UT3), INP Toulouse (INPT), and CY as additional partners.

The IPAL Research Themes are:

  1. Explainable and Trustable AI
  2. AI & HCI (Man-Machine Symbiosis)
  3. Natural Language Processing
  4. Data Science and Applications
  5. Efficient AI

IPAL facilitates PhDs and publications in these areas.

Back to the top of the page

University of Gothenburg and Nordic Centre Fudan


The University of Gothenburg’s (GU) partnership with Fudan was initiated based on strategic priorities, historic ties between Sweden and China (especially between Gothenburg and Shanghai being great port cities). The partnership began with the establishment of the Nordic Centre Fudan in 1995, which works with 24 Nordic partners to develop programmes and activities for Nordic and Chinese students and scholars, and for the Nordic business community in Shanghai.

The Nordic Centre has a rotating secretariat amongst the Nordic partners, currently held by GU (2021-2023), who is responsible for coordinating the board and council. Each different agreement also has its own process and coordinator. The Nordic Centre programme manager is employed by GU on a stationed-abroad contract. He and other on-site staff handle the necessary paperwork, navigate legislative obstacles, provide support to students and staff, and help connect with external stakeholders.

The Nordic Centre enjoys good connections (and runs joint events and visits) with embassies, consulates, and business/innovation centres in Shanghai. It is also a given pit-stop for ministers and policymakers in HE. The Nordic Centre has partnered with a company called Demola that offers exchange students at Fudan the chance to collaborate with Shanghai companies on case-studies. There are plans to strengthen these connections and develop more academia-industry projects.

The Nordic Centre partnership benefits from deep, meaningful involvement at every level of GU (central, faculty, department), and from the commitment of member universities (especially Fudan).

Each working group in the Nordic Centre collaboration includes representatives from all involved countries (including China). Therefore, the collaboration provides a fruitful arena to discuss common challenges, different views on issues concerning international cooperation, responsible internationalisation, and university and higher education concerns in general.

GU’s decentralised structure and the breadth of activities in this partnership can make it hard to communicate opportunities in an effective, targeted way.


The long standing involvement between GU and the Nordic Centre made Fudan a natural choice for double-degrees when GU sought a partnership in Asia. The Centre facilitates various exchange agreements including a double-MA in Political Science and Linnaeus-Palme exchange funding with Social Work (declined due to the pandemic), as well as other subject-specific agreements.

At the time of writing, there have been 24 outgoing student mobilities since 2014, and 39 incoming since 2010. Numbers of staff exchanges (e.g. for conferences) are not recorded, but there have been exchanges of administrative staff to discuss systems, organisation, etc.

The Centre’s summer courses (co-taught by Fudan and its Nordic partners) are popular with GU students and serve as a platform for teacher collaboration. There are also tailor-made courses for larger cohorts of visiting students.

The capacity-building project BUIBRI, in which Fudan and GU are partners, began in 2017 and is almost concluded: it focuses on building connections between Europe and China to strengthen the Social Work profession.

The development of semester-long Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) courses is under consideration.

The Nordic centre offers funding for research visits, as well as practical support and office space for researchers, as well as funding and resources for visits, joint workshops, and seminars. The Centre recently launched a call for seed funding (planning grants) to support the preparation of larger joint research projects and grant applications. One significant collaboration between the Institute of Biomedical Science at Fudan and Physiology at GU was funded by the Swedish Research Council. and The partnership has resulted in 204 co-publications since 1987, of which 186 are since 2011.

There are plans to run further workshops connected to priority thematic areas, and to create an overview of research interests/strengths in these areas across the Nordic Centre members, to facilitate matchmaking.

Back to the top of the page

Universitat Pompeu Fabra and A4U, CASA, Europaenaum

UPF participates in three important networks, besides EUTOPIA.

Alliance 4 Universities (A4U): Raising the international profile of Spanish universities


In 2008, the A4U was set up as an official alliance between UPF, the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), and Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M). Prior to that date, cooperation between the partner institutions had been governed by a general framework agreement, with specific agreements being arranged for each project. The association grew out of the desire of these four universities, which share the same commitment to quality research and excellence in teaching, to pursue joint projects. In addition, there was also a political agenda to approach Madrid and Barcelona to create bridges for dialogue.

The A4U’s objectives include:

  • Promoting the research conducted at the partner universities, primarily in Europe
  • Raising their profiles and enhancing their international reputations by encouraging contacts in countries and areas considered to be strategic priorities
  • Improving mobility options for students, teaching staff and researchers
  • Promoting quality teaching, with a clear commitment to interuniversity degree programmes, programmes in English and online training

A4U targets countries where each university by itself would find it difficult to operate individually, and where the four institutions share risks and opportunities. It has a reputation for promoting quality mobilities and raising sustainable funding sources, with stable mobility flows now operating in 10 countries (and growing). Since 2015, Erasmus ICM funds of over €1.6m have been raised, and 472 student and staff mobilities have been enabled.

The alliance facilitates cooperation with institutions and official bodies such as the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade, Instituto Cervantes, and a number of embassies. It also provides input and feedback to the Erasmus national agency.

In the future there are plans to do more work in Africa, and to initiate new multilateral projects related to capacity-building, postdoc opportunities, and international campuses.

The A4U is an independent legal entity with a transparent, flexible and participative organisational structure. It has a Board of Directors and a General Assembly, which hold ordinary meetings at least once a year.

The Board of Directors is appointed for a two-year term, and the presidency rotates between the four partner universities. The A4U’s Board of Directors consists of a president, a secretary and a treasurer, all from the university holding the presidency, and three vice-presidents, representing each of the three remaining universities. The General Assembly includes the members of the Board of Directors as well as representatives of the other A4U partners. The Alliance’s various working groups report to the General Assembly on their work and the status of their projects.


The A4U offers the Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, which is coordinated jointly by all four member universities. This programme allows students to make the most out of what each university has to offer, and students can alternate their studies between Barcelona and Madrid. UPF is in charge of coordinating this bachelor’s degree programme. A4U also facilitate a new Bachelor’s Degree in Sciences, with lectures taking place in both Barcelona and Madrid. The alliance is working on the design of joint/combined PhD opportunities to market internationally.

In July 2013, Obra Social ‘La Caixa’ funded a Mobility Grant Programme with a total budget of €600,000, with the aim of awarding between 100 and 200 grants over the first four years of the PPE BA. In so doing, Obra Social ‘La Caixa’ sought to ensure that the expenses arising from the programme’s compulsory mobility periods would not act as a barrier to anyone interested in pursuing the degree.

The PPE Student Association is a student-led initiative run by both students and alumni, standing for the values of knowledge, interdisciplinarity, and progress. They organise dialogues and conferences between Barcelona and Madrid, in line with the original spirit of the Alliance.

A4U’s education activities bring renewal and innovation to the catalogue of existing degrees at the national level, producing graduates with different profiles in the social sciences and humanities: graduates can now develop a strong legal, economic and philosophical background, highly valued in the professional world, alongside a deep sense of social responsibility.

Challenges are sometimes presented by the different speeds and degrees of involvement from the participating universities, and by the difficulty of managing a multilateral scheme (e.g. facilitating scholarships for Madrid-Barcelona mobility).


In 2009, the A4U launched the Office for the Promotion of European Research Activities (OPERA), with a view to providing support for the European research activities undertaken by each of the partner universities and to increasing the number of proposals they submit to European research programmes.

OPERA’s aims are:

  • To support the A4U and its researchers in their efforts to make their research more competitive at the European and international level
  • To identify new policies and funding opportunities of interest to the A4U universities and their researchers
  • To participate in and influence European R&D and innovation policymaking
  • To provide personalised assistance in Brussels to researchers participating in European projects.

This collaboration has resulted in the following benefits:

  • Increase in submissions and awards (and an improved submission/reward ratio) by the four universities, with a more inclusive approach in terms of disciplines and topics funded
  • Increased budget allocation over time in European Research Framework Programmes
  • Researchers and research management staff benefit from expert advice and access to EU officials
  • Increased Spanish share and presence in EU programmes proves the country and A4U play a leading role in research capacity
  • Improvement of institutional and national research indicators

See results and indicators for more detail.

These research collaborations benefit from pooled resources (enabling the office in Brussels) and agreement among partners on the need for centralised support structures.

In a collaborative project like OPERA, individual researcher goals – competing against each other – can sometimes present difficulties. Another challenge is that EU funding programmes do not allow the possibility to submit projects as a national consortium.


The IUNE Observatory was founded and developed by a group of researchers from the A4U universities with the collaboration of the Spanish Ministries of Science & Innovation and Education.

The IUNE Observatory’s main objectives are:

  • ­To contribute to knowledge and analysis of the Spanish university system’s scientific and technological activity
  • ­To provide up-to-date and reliable information on various aspects of the research conducted at Spanish universities
  • ­To develop a suite of variables and R&D and innovation indicators that accurately characterise the research conducted at Spanish public and private universities
  • ­To enable the development of research profiles for each university

The IUNE Observatory relies on official information sources to produce a wide set of indicators of scientific activity not only in absolute but also in relative terms (according to the number of researchers at each institution). The Observatory also publishes reports and sparks discussion of results by experts. All data is open access. The IUNE Observatory has become a go-to place for indicators of research activity at national level, both to see the evolution of results of the Spanish system over time, as well as to benchmark and compare between institutions.

Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA): Place-making and internationalisation


The Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA) was founded in 2007 as CASB (the B stood for Barcelona).

Previous academic connections led to a group of distinguished universities from the U.S. establishing a study-abroad programme in Barcelona because of its particular ecosystem (quality HEIs, bilingualism, cosmopolitanism, urban environment, European character). Barcelona universities saw it as an opportunity to engage with Ivy League universities, to internationalise their own campus by hosting excellent students, and to create reciprocal activities involving postdoc researchers and teaching staff.

There is a central management structure of CASA in the US with a branch in Barcelona, liaising with the committee of local universities in Barcelona participating in the venture (UB, UAB, UPF, UPC), who take a leading role on a rotating basis for 2 years. The CASA branch in Barcelona engages with local and regional government in order to provide internship, volunteering, and field opportunities to US students.


The collaboration facilitates 40-80 incoming undergraduate mobilities per year, and outgoing student mobility is planned for the future (though tuition fee structures in the U.S. make this difficult). U.S. students participate in a variety of joint activities with local faculty and students, and have opportunities to publish research.

Four outgoing postdoctoral mobilities are facilitated per year, according to the available budget (a contribution per student). This helps to boost researchers’ careers and promote research in Catalan and Hispanic topics.

Thanks to CASB’s and CASA’s pioneering work, Barcelona has attained a strong reputation in the study-abroad market, as well as for postgraduate training and research activities. However, since CASA expanded there is increased competition from the various destinations.

Europaeum: Social Sciences and Humanities niche network


The Europaeum is a European-wide network of 18 organisations, based in Oxford University. UPF joined in 2012. The formation of the Europaeum was motivated by academic interest in Europe as a topic for research, teaching and learning. Each university has a strong presence of Jean Monnet Chairs and professors with a European studies background, but at times this focus on personal connections may undermine the transfer potential at the institutional level.

The network has a clear academic focus, promoting intellectual debate on Europe and providing resources for advanced graduate training. This focus enables the network to create a critical intellectual mass and engage policy makers. In the organisation of all activities, there is a mix of teaching faculty and researchers alongside local and European experts and professionals, to cross perspectives and enrich the analysis and debate on the topic approached.

The Europaeum is a UK charity with a Board of Trustees, General Council, Executive Committee and Academic Council. Partners pay a membership fee that helps to support the director and a full-time administrator. The Executive Chair and Programme Director are based at Oxford University. As well as member subscriptions, costs are covered by charitable donations from multiple organisations, foundations, companies and individuals (see the full list).


The network facilitates activities such as:

  • The Europaeum Scholar Programme, a two-year training programme for PhD students which has so far hosted three cohorts of 30+ students, and has helped to boost their careers
  • Lectures, seminars and workshops with faculty from partners and a mix of local and European experts and professionals, in which 15-20 UPF postgraduates participate per year.
    • Spring Seminar for the MA European History & Civilisation students in Oxford
    • Annual Policy Seminar in Brussels or Luxembourg, in close collaboration with EU institutions
    • Annual Classics Colloquium on a topic chosen by a leading academic in the network, not necessarily exclusive to Classicists
  • Winter, Spring and Summer Schools
  • Bursaries for research stays upon each partner initiative
  • Joint degrees such as the Erasmus Mundus MA on European Politics and Society (in which UPF participates)

By hosting events such as the Classics Colloquium or a Winter School, UPF is able to raise the profile of important research topics. Such events also help to prompt collaborations between Jean Monnet Chairs.

Back to the top of the page

Vrije Universiteit Brussel and International Joint Research Groups

VUB’s International Joint Research Groups (IJRGs) are centres for cooperation and exchange, pooling knowledge and resources to enable more joint projects, as well as greater impact and visibility. They are formed through an annual call and selection by the research council. Each IJRG lasts three years (renewable), with an annual budget of €10,000 to finance the costs of distance collaboration (mobility, organisation of workshops, etc.).

The IJRGs serve as:

  • High-level academic centres for international science & technology cooperation and exchange
  • Platforms for research-oriented training and mobility
  • Pools of knowledge, expertise, and - if applicable - infrastructure & equipment
  • Facilitators of knowledge or technology transfer for creating impact on society, culture, the economy, the non-profit sector, governmental bodies, and the public at large

The primary goals of an IJRG are:

  • Attract more joint projects than individually, drawing on externally (internationally) funded research programmes, (e.g. EU and others)
  • Recruit and deliver joint PhDs
  • Increase the visibility and attractiveness of research teams in EU and other worldwide programmes
  • Produce joint publications, enhancing the reputation of the participating universities
Back to the top of the page