UCL News


The Cities partnerships Programme (CpP)

28 March 2019

Dr Claire Colomb, Reader in the Bartlett School of Planning, talks about her involvement in the Cities partnerships Programme (CpP).

Dr Claire Colomb

What is your position at UCL and what does it involve?

I have been an academic at UCL since 2005, and am now a Reader (associate professor) at the Bartlett School of Planning, in the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, which was recently ranked first in the 2019 QS World Rankings in this interdisciplinary field. My background is in social sciences (with a first degree in sociology and politics from Sciences-Po Paris, France) and urban and regional planning (with a PhD from UCL). Prior to joining UCL, I worked as project developer in a European transnational cooperation programme (INTERREG III North-West Europe).

My research interests reflect this dual background. Some of my work focuses on European spatial planning and territorial cooperation, and on comparative urban & regional planning (for example through an ongoing project on devolution, territorial politics and spatial planning in contested European states and regions: Scotland, Catalonia and Flanders). I also work on urban governance, public policies and social mobilisations in European cities, looking at the social impacts of urban policies and the contested politics of urban development in various contexts such as London, Berlin, Paris, or Barcelona, in cooperation with colleagues in several countries.

Since 2012 I have been the International Coordinator of the Bartlett School of Planning, and have actively worked to implement the UCL Global Engagement Strategy by negotiating new ERASMUS and international exchange agreements with leading overseas partner institutions, and promoting the Study Abroad option to our students. Supporting multiple forms of international collaborations in teaching and research is a key part of my commitment to higher education!

Tell us about the Cities partnerships Programme...

The UCL Cities partnerships Programme was created in 2018 to strengthen UCL’s commitment to European, and international, collaborations in a post-Brexit scenario. It supports, funds and promotes academic collaborations in research and teaching with partners in global cities across the world. Focusing on a city, rather than a specific organisation, gives UCL academics the possibility to work with the individuals and institutions that they feel are the best in their particular field. The three-year programme in each city will entail:

  • Seed funding to nurture and support interdisciplinary academic work with partners in the city
  • Engaging audiences in and beyond academia through a curated series of events with partner institutions
  • Complementary activity with existing events and networks to support student mobility and engage alumni and the public

The outcomes of the CpP will include academic-led activities with partners; new research collaborations leading to joint applications for external funding; new partnerships leading to dual degrees, short courses, research hub(s) and opportunities for students; or bilateral opportunities for staff mobility.

What is your specific role in the CpP?

Following an open recruitment process in which members of UCL’s academic community were invited to propose a city with which they have significant links, two UCL academics have been appointed as the CpP’s first Academic Directors. My colleague Dr Florian Mussgnug will steer the Rome programme (2018-2021). In June 2018 I was selected to steer the Paris programme (2019-2022). My commitment to, and experience in, international relations, ERASMUS programmes, as well as my European research profile, led me to apply to the position. Originally French but having spent most of my academic career in the UK, with spells in Germany, France and Spain, my personal trajectory has been shaped by Eurostars and Eurocities” (to quote the title of a book by sociologist Adrian Favell). As a passionate European with transnational attachments, I was excited to be able to contribute in a positive way to UCL’s efforts to strengthen its engagement with its European neighbours in the very challenging context of Brexit.

My role as Academic Director of the UCL CpP for Paris is to provide academic leadership for the 3-year cycle of the programme, working in close partnership with colleagues from the UCL Global Engagement Office to champion collaborations between UCL-based and Paris-based academic partners – across all of UCL’s 11 faculties and disciplines. This entails promoting seed funding opportunities available under the programme to UCL staff and external partners, and to curate an academic programme of activities that captures public attention.

London and Paris are quintessential ‘global cities’: magnets of national and international migrations, arenas for social mobility and economic growth, but also spaces of sharply rising social inequalities. Both cities face common challenges, such as rising patterns of socio-spatial segregation fuelled by the housing crisis; the need to tackle climate change, unsustainable resource consumption and environmental pollution; the rise of populism, xenophobia and extremism, to name a few. Both cities have a complex relationship with the rest of their national territory, and are characterised by intense mobility flows (of people, capital, goods and ideas) and an increasingly transient population. Only 2h20 on the Eurostar, both cities are nevertheless “faraway so close”, “si loin, si proche”, shaped by different legacies in the relationship between state, market, and civil society. But Paris and London are also spaces for social, economic, technological, cultural and policy innovations, and progressive, cosmopolitan political projects incarnated by a new generation of mayors. Immediately after the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, on 27 June 2016, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, published a joint statement in the Financial Times, stating that:

… there is so much that unites our two great cities. Shared history, shared culture, shared challenges and the shared experience of being one of just a handful of truly global cities. (…) The 21st century belongs to cities. Cities are innovating and leading global action in area after area. From supporting economic growth and enterprise to tackling air pollution, moving to clean energy or dealing with the pressures of rapid population growth — it is cities that are leading the charge. In cities we celebrate our diversity and see our differences as a great source of strength. (…) As the mayors of London and Paris, we are today committing to work ever more closely together in order to build far stronger alliances between cities across Europe and around the world”.

Universities have a key role to play in this agenda, and I hope that UCL will take the lead in this process, in collaboration with other institutions across national borders!

What kind of projects can the seed funding support, and how can those interested find out more and apply?

The first call for seed funding for Paris-focused collaborations, and second call for Rome-focused collaboration, is now open and will close on 17 May 2019. We invite proposals by UCL academic staff members for up to £5,000 per project for academic activity undertaken between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020 with partners based in Paris or Rome. Partners may be individuals, research teams or departments at a Higher Education Institution, research institute or public, corporate or charitable organisation. Activities could include: organising a joint seminar leading to joint publications, future research collaborations, grant applications, or other follow-up activities; visiting a global partner and doing preliminary scoping work to underpin the preparation of a long-term collaborative partnership (e.g. preparation of a double degree or exchange agreement); public engagement activities, etc.

In exceptional cases, applicants can bid for a higher budget if the project is likely to sow the seeds of a long-term collaboration. Do get in touch with the Academic Director for Rome (Dr Florian Mussgnug) or Paris (Dr Claire Colomb) if you wish to put forward an application for a higher amount.

All information about eligibility and the application form are available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/global/rome-and-paris-funds-201920