Circle U. European University Alliance

The European University Circle U. brings together the universities of Oslo, Paris, Aarhus, Pisa, Vienna, Humboldt in Berlin, Belgrade, King’s College London and Université catholique de Louvain. The “European Universities” initiative, which promotes cutting-edge research and teaching in Europe, is supported by the European Commission and the Investment for the Future Programme in France.

Student representatives of the Circle U. Student Union (CUSU) at the Circle U. seminar at Université Paris Cité in March 2020.

Circle U. brings together research-intensive, multidisciplinary and internationally-oriented universities, situated for the majority of them in the main capitals of Europe: Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and London. The University of Belgrade, the largest and oldest university in Serbia is also the most renowned in South-East Europe. Finally, two Scandinavian universities with an outstanding reputation for innovation complete this group of universities of excellence.

The alliance represents 474,000 students, 64,000 staff and more than 20 Nobel Prize winners. Our students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff are building an inclusive project. The ambition is to make possible an ‘Education Schengen’ for an easier access to courses, programs, infrastructures and resources of all member universities of the alliance with a significant increase in students’ international exposure, through physical and virtual mobility.

Since 1 September 2021, Circle U. has also been the winner of a call for projects from the H2020 programme aimed at developing research and innovation collaboration within the alliance, Circle U. ERIA (Empowering Research and Innovation Actions in Circle U.).

Oslo, December 2019, from left to right :
Sabine Kunst, President University Humboldt of Berlin, Vincent Blondel, Rector University of Louvain, Christine Clerici, President Université Paris Cité, Svein Stølen, Rector University of Oslo, Ivanka Popović, Rector University of Belgrade, Berit Eika, Pro-rector of University of Aarhus, Tania Lima, Director of Global Engagement du King’s College London
Associated partners

A central part of the Circle U. project is to engage in a dialogue with society outside the walls of the university. 34 partners representing local authorities, companies and civil society organisations have committed to playing an active role in various Circle U. activities, thus contributing to the success of the alliance.

In France, these associated partners are:

  • The Medicen cluster in health innovation
  • Paris City Council
  • Ile-de-France Region
  • APHP Paris-Centre and APHP Paris-Nord

For more information on Circle U’s 34 associate partners 


Following Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the Sorbonne in 2017 calling for the creation of European universities, the European Commission has launched an initiative in 2019 and 2020 to fund 41 European alliances under the Erasmus+ programme and the H2020 programme. Université Paris Cité is supported by the Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir (PIA) for its participation in Circle U.

European universities are transnational alliances, key pillars of the European Education and Research Area, which promote European values and identity and aim to significantly enhance the quality and attractiveness of European higher education and research.


Climate, Democracy and Global Health, 3 key themes

The sustainability of our societies, from an ecological, political, social and economic point of view, is at the heart of the Circle U project.

Three Knowledge Hubs will be set up over the period 2020-2023:

  • Climate
  • Democracy
  • Global Health

These three thematic priorities have been built around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Knowledge Hubs are spaces that bring together students, teacher-researchers and external partners around interdisciplinary themes.  They are the framework in which courses, summer schools and degree programmes in Circle U will be developed. They will also lay the foundations for a common scientific programme for Circle U.

The creation of an Open School of Public Governance at the confluence of the 3 Knowledge Hubs is planned for 2023.

A joint course catalogue showcasing courses offered by the universities of Circle U. in the 3 Knowledge Hubs is now available online.

Transforming European Higher Education

Increasing the international exposure of students, faculty and staff

Some targets for 2023: 

  • The number of students in mobility within Circle U. has doubled
  • 10,000 students participate in the virtual mobility offered by Circle U.
  • At least 15 courses have been co-developed by the partners
  • The mobility of administrative staff has tripled

Distance and Blended learning

  • The increase in mobility planned by Circle U. involves an increase in virtual mobility and therefore extensive use of e-learning to bring together students from different countries and the pooling of online teaching resources.
  • A taskforce on Blended Learning is coordinated by Université Paris Cité.

Think and Do tank on the future of higher education

Université Paris Cité is coordinating the setting up of a Think and Do tank on the future of higher education within Circle U. Its objectives will be to :

  • foster a quality learning environment
  • imagine and experiment new teaching and learning method
  • leverage policy in the  European Higher Education Area (EEA

Its recommendations will be widely disseminated and will feed into the activities we will implement in the framework of our alliance. Multilingualism will be a particular focus within the Think and Do tank.

The Think and Do Tank is based on the work of 7 Chairs from the 7 Circle U universities. The participation of professors and students will be a central point, and the Chairs of the Think and Do Tank will have to involve them.

Challenge-based learning and and student entrepreneurship

An online programme on sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship will be developed by the 7 Circle U. Chairs of the Student led sustainable innovation network.

Circle U. Challenges will be organised on societal challenges posed by the Circle U. associate partners. Interdisciplinary and international teams of students will solve these challenges accompanied by their professors and in conjunction with Circle U. partners.

A network of female student entrepreneurs in Circle U. will be set up to encourage the feminisation of this field of activity.

ERIA: research cooperation, coordinated by Université Paris Cité

In February 2021, the Circle U. alliance was awarded a project funded by H2020 (the SwafS action – Science with and for society) and coordinated by Université Paris Cité. This project called ERIAEmpowering Research and Innovation Action in Circle U.” aims to strengthen research and innovation collaboration within the alliance with 7 objectives :

  • Encourage interdisciplinarity in research and innovation activities
  • Encourage the co-construction of solutions with extra-academic partners
  • Make research more accessible to citizens
  • Enhance the careers of young researchers
  • Increase the international exposure of young researchers
  • Promote the EU’s objectives in terms of gender equality in research and innovation
  • To participate in the structuring of the European Research Area, through strong collaboration with other alliances

 The ERIA project is officially launched on 1st September 2021 for a 3-year pilot phase.

InnovEd4TS Strategic Partnership: focus on students' transferable skills

Educational innovation already links Circle U. partners within the InnovEd4TS (Innovative Education For Transferable Skills) project, funded by Erasmus+ and focused on students’ transferable skills. Many Université Paris Cité lecturers participated in the virtual visits organised during the first phase of this project in 2021. Université Paris Cité hosted 2 visits. 


For more information on InnovEd4TS

Circle U. team at Université Paris Cité

The Chairs

Global Health Chair

Prof. Jean-Philippe Empana

Democracy Chair

Prof. Jan Spurk 

Chair Climate

Prof. Alexandre Gélabert

Chair Think and Do Tank on the future of higher education

Prof. Grégoire Borst

Chair Open School of Public Governance

Prof. Federico Tarragoni

Referents in the working groups

In the 12 Circle U. working groups, 15 professors and researchers from Université Paris Cité and 6 administrative staff are involved in offering their expertise, representing Université Paris Cité, involving their respective communities, and co-constructing Circle U. with our partners.

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Students in Circle U. Student Union

Two students represent Université Paris Cité in the Circle U. Student Union. (Circle U. Student Union – CUSU).

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The Strategy and International Relations Department

A team of 4 people are working on the Circle U. project within the Strategy and International Relations Department.

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