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History of the Robert Schuman Centre

A story of small beginnings but robust organic growth to address the EU agenda as it evolves

"Since its creation the Centre has not stopped growing but its genetic code has not changed: openess, flexibility, innovative research, a lot of initiatives, a certain level of autonomy"

Yves Mény

Director 1993-2001

The Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies was launched in 1993 as an inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary research centre. Its creation followed the conclusion of a strategic review of the European University Institute (EUI), recommending to increase the Institute’s attractiveness. One key proposal was to build on the experience of the Policy Unit, created a few years before with the objective to engage in high-quality policy-oriented and policy-relevant academic research and become a bridge to the world of practice.

The mission of building and shaping this new entity was entrusted to Yvés Meny and the initial start was modest: one director and four administrative staff. Thanks to the creation of Joint Chairs with the EUI Departments, the Schuman Centre soon started to attract more and more academics and research fellows. The Jean Monnet Fellowship programme, the first post-doctoral programme launched at the EUI in 1983, was also adopted by the Schuman Centre in 1993.

Important steps were taken with the creation of chairs supported by national governments as well as private and public donors on specific issues. One example is the Chair of Transatlantic Relations funded by the Republic of Ireland. This not only led to further growth of the Centre, but represents also the first experience of third-party funding at the EUI.

Since 1992, the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies has hosted a large number of scholars under the auspices of the Jean Monnet Fellowship Programme, which remains one of the EUI’s flagship programmes. The Alumni Conference was an opportunity to re-connect with our former fellows and to mark 25 years of the programme.

At this conference, held at the European University Institute in Florence, participants presented and discussed several papers about the European Union foreign policy, political crises and cleavages, migration, markets and money.

With the new millenium, new research areas and fields were established at the Schuman Centre. The Centre reinforced its scientific engagement with policy-related topics, such as the monetary union or migration. The latter was initially integrated into the Mediterranean programme and later developed into the Migration Policy Centre.

Worth mention is the founding of the Florence School of Regulation (FSR) in 2004, which in its first years focused on energy issues and later became one of the biggest success stories of the Centre. The Schuman Centre became a space for academics to carry out their research projects and for young researchers to stabilise their careers.

With Stefano Bartolini as the new director from the end of 2006, the Robert Schuman Centre continued to grow: new projects were launched such as EUDO (European Observatory on Democracy) and the Loyola de Palacio Programme on energy.

In 2008 the Schuman Centre had already evolved into a large and well-known research infrastructure hosting more than 100 people. Its theoretical and methodological pluralism, a characteristic feature of the Centre’s research orientation since the very beginning, had remained constant over the years. The Centre is involved in basic and policy research, it collaborates with other centres of excellence in Europe, it provides opportunities for young scholars and it promotes dialogue with the world of practice.

The Centre was originally financed via the EUI budget but over time, it continued to successfully obtain external funds via competitive grant and fund applications, where the EU remains predominant but the proportion of private donors – firms and foundations – has increased.

From 2013 to 2021 the Centre was directed by Brigid Laffan. By then, the Centre had become a large hub of different programmes and projects, such as the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom, the European Union Democracy Observatory, the Florence School of Regulation, the Global Governance Programme, and the Migration Policy Centre.

The Centre had also become the home of a number of highly competitive ERC projects; in 2014 for instance it hosted one starting ERC grant and four senior advanced grants. The Florence School of Banking and Finance was created in 2016 as well as the MEDirections Programme. Finally, the new European Governance and Politics Programme joined the Schuman family in 2018.

The Schuman Centre has four well-established fellowship programmes: the Jean Monnet Fellows, the Max Weber Fellows, the Robert Schuman Fellows, and the EU Fellows from the European Parliament, the Commission, and the External Action Service, intended to attract outstanding scholars and practitioners who wish to pursue their research interests and enrich the academic community. In addition, the Centre has also become an attractive environment for Marie Curie Fellows.

While academic conferences and workshops continue to regularly take place at the Robert Schuman Centre, high-level policy dialogue and executive training have also become main channels of engagement with practitioners. The dissemination of research output and an increased visibility of the different activities of the Centre also became a priority under Brigid Laffan’s direction. In 2018-19 the Robert Schuman Centre obtained several new EU-funded projects and reached a new record in terms of external funding.

The Schuman Centre started as a modest enterprise of five people and in 2019 it was home to almost 200 people between academic and administrative staff.

Meet our former directors

Yves Mény | The Robert Schuman Centre

Helen Wallace | The Robert Schuman Centre

Stefano Bartolini | The Robert Schuman Centre

Brigid Laffan reflects on her career and on women in academia

Page last updated on 13/06/2023

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