Signing ceremony
Oxford University, represented by Professor Karen O'Brien (right), signs an agreement to strengthen its relationship with the Maison Française d'Oxford at the French Ambassador's residence in London.

Image credit: Embassy of France in the UK

Oxford University celebrates stronger ties with French researchers

As the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) marks 80 years since its foundation, the University of Oxford is extending its collaboration with French researchers through the Maison Française d’Oxford.

The Maison Française d’Oxford (MFO) was founded in 1946 as a centre for promoting French research and higher education in Oxford, and for helping collaborations between the two, and has since developed into a research centre in the humanities and social sciences.

At a ceremony held today at the French Ambassador’s residence in London, the University of Oxford, the CNRS and the French Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs (MFO’s parent organisations) co-signed an agreement facilitating the deepening of the MFO’s links with the University and the expansion of the MFO’s activities to include closer working with academics across all disciplines. The agreement will also see the University increase its representation on the Paris Committee, the body overseeing the MFO’s academic strategy.

Strengthening ties with academics across the globe is a priority for Oxford University, which has committed through its recently published Strategic Plan to expand the University’s strategic international research collaborations.

Professor Lionel Tarassenko, Head of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and Chair of the Oxford Committee of the MFO, said: ‘There are already many collaborations between Oxford researchers and colleagues in CNRS laboratories, notably in the field of artificial intelligence. This agreement gives us the opportunity to broaden and deepen relationships between the CNRS and Oxford researchers in the University’s four Divisions, at a time when it is critical to underpin the foundations of the collaborations between the UK academic community and its counterparts in Europe.’

Frederic Thibault-Starzyk, Director of Maison Française d’Oxford, said: ‘The Maison Française d’Oxford is delighted to welcome this exciting new partnership. Today’s agreement will have a transformational impact on the MFO, making us the focus of a renewed collaboration between British and French researchers. It will broaden our reach into a wider range of disciplines, including science and technology, and give us and our work greater visibility both locally and in the European context.’

French Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said: ‘This agreement will ensure an ever closer relationship between the CNRS and the University of Oxford – each outstanding institutions with global reputations for excellence. I am delighted by this initiative, as it exemplifies just how vibrant the Franco-British relationship is, particularly in the field of academia.’

Since 1999, the present MFO building in Oxford, officially opened by the French novelist and politician André Malraux in 1967, has hosted a CNRS research unit which acts as a link between Oxford and research centres and universities in France. It is the only such institution in the UK, and French researchers visit for periods of up to three years to lead on major streams of research at the MFO that involve collaboration with Oxford academics.

The MFO also hosts around 40 to 50 events each academic term, including seminars, conferences and exhibitions. In addition, many French researchers and students visit Oxford for shorter research trips or to give lectures.