University Diplomacy and Blue Law with overseas accent

The University of La Réunion brings influential scientific excellence in the Indian region. His vision of the geostrategic role of the outermost regions is one of the strengths of the Campus RUP alliance to opt for the election as one of the first European Universities of the Erasmus Plus program

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THE INTERNATIONAL STRATEGY of the University of La Réunion is imbued with the notion of «overseas university diplomacy». Since its founding in Saint-Denis in 1982, it has been perfecting its deployment in the Indian Ocean region, where it is the only French and European university, and the first innovation producer by number of jobs dedicated to R&D. Their experience in forming geostrategic capital based on innovation with an ultramarine seal and their vision of the Blue Law as a new legal branch of the emerging maritime industries, in which the outermost regions of the European Union have everything to specialize, are two of the benefits that the University of La Réunion contributes to the Campus RUP alliance, the project of a European overseas university that will physically and virtually move, by 2022, to half of the 100,000 university students in the ORs between the Azores universities, Antilles, French Guiana, La Laguna, Madeira, La Réunion and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

The innovation ecosystems of the ORs form «a specific model of influence and co-development» in their respective neighborhoods, according to the University of La Réunion. In this thesis rests the vision of a «ultramarine university diplomacy» as an innovative instrument of foreign policy; one more, along with others already settled, such as business diplomacy or development aid.

The idea that the University of La Réunion contributes to Campus RUP –after having tested it through its experience of cooperation in the Indian Ocean– is that Member States and the European Union can take advantage of the scientific and technical specialization of outermost regions universities to contribute to the growth of neighboring countries and to improve the qualification of their populations.

Université de La Réunion
© Université de La Réunion.

The African ORs –Canarias, Mayotte and La Réunion– have a role to play in the economic takeoff of the continent. On the one hand, they produce knowledge «necessary for decision-makers to carry out the most important social projects» –explains the university chaired by Frédéric Miranville, on page 47 of the Campus RUP project, presented at the February meeting of the European Commission for the European Universities Initiative, of the Erasmus Plus program. On the other hand, ultramarine university diplomacy is capable of promoting regional economies based on research and innovation, «in our territories and in the territories of our neighbors». Third, the universities of the Campus RUP alliance can play an active international role by helping to develop innovation ecosystems in neighboring African countries.

On the route of the Belt and Road Initiative

The international experience of the University of La Réunion is one of the assets of the Campus RUP alliance. Its foreign strategy consists of six objectives. The first two are «to promote a culture of international relations and regional cooperation» and «to build an ultramarine university diplomacy», as indicated by its governing team in the documentation of the ultraperipheral university project. The development of the external action is currently under the care of the lawyer Anne-Françoise Zattara-Gros, vice-president of the University in charge of International Relations and Regional Cooperation.

In its two campuses, Moufia and Tampon, the main languages of the region are learned and spoken, such as Malagasy and Swahili, but also Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese

The island is on the route of the Belt and Road, China’s initiative to create a belt of communications and trade that will unite Asia, Europe, Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. The University of La Réunion is already situating itself in this scenario, signing cooperation agreements with Chinese universities and promoting the learning of Chinese among its students, professors, researchers and administration and services personnel.

In 2018, together with the University of French Guiana, the University Center of Mayotte and the University of the West Indies, created a network of overseas universities. It is also a member of RETI, the network of island universities, which also includes the other universities of the Campus RUP consortium. He leads the Metiss project, within the European Interreg program, to develop an innovative decision tool specialized in blue economy and sustainability policies in the Indian Ocean, which can be replicated in other regions of the world. In its strategy for the period 2016-2020, the University of La Réunion speaks of a Federated University of the Indian Ocean as the horizon of its plans for international cooperation in the region.

Scientific focus with regional interests

The University of La Réunion has specialized in «a competitive and visible research in the Indian region». Its scientific focus is on the preservation of natural ecosystems, the management of natural risks, sanitary and food security, energy autonomy and the study of Indian Ocean societies. Its five faculties, four institutes and two university schools, two doctoral schools of excellence, 21 laboratories and seven libraries place it as «a major player in the socio-economic development of the territory and the region».

120 university students from La Reunion will stay in Azores, Madeira, La Laguna and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, between 2019 and 2022. Another 5,260 will study in the virtual platform of the RUP Campus

It is close to the 16,000 registered students, of which 832 are foreigners of 56 nationalities. In its two campuses, Moufia and Tampon, the main languages ​​of the region are learned and spoken, such as Malagasy and Swahili, but also Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.

«Through Campus RUP» –explains the lead team in the project documentation– «the University of La Réunion wishes to open a space for dialogue among overseas universities, in the context of a global knowledge economy». The alliance «will reinforce synergies with partners with whom we already collaborate in projects of blue economy, blue law, renewable energy, biodiversity and climate change».

The University of La Réunion is one of the 24 partners of the European Forward project, from which will emerge an R&D strategy of excellence in the outermost regions. The mobility scheme in the Campus RUP project provides that 120 university students from La Reunion will stay in Azores (30), Madeira (30), La Laguna (30) and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (30), between 2019 and 2022. Another 5,260 will study in the virtual platform of the Campus RUP, in which two postgraduate courses will be taught, a Master in European Studies and another in Blue Economy. In total, 37% of the university students of La Réunion will move through the RUP Campus in the next three years.

For the University of La Réunion, the Campus RUP alliance will allow ultraperipheral universities to build «a specific model of influence and co-development» in their geostrategic environments. Their motivation is that they will all gain from overseas university diplomacy: the RUP territories, the neighboring countries, the Member States and the foreign policy of the European Union.

Anne-Françoise Zattara-Gros

The Vice President of International Relations at the University of La Réunion responds to the Europa Rup questionnaire:

«Campus RUP builds a specific model to extend European influence through Higher Education»

University of La Réunion

Founding year

1982. In 1926, the island had a Law School. In 1950, higher education on the island was integrated into the French University. In 1964, two higher education centers were created, one scientific and one literary. In 1965, a campus was created in Saint-Denis. In 1970, the University Center of La Réunion was created, with three specializations: Law-Economics, Literature and Sciences.


State public, under the administrative supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research.


Saint-Denis. It has two campuses, Moufia and Tampon, a Technology Park, facilities in Saint-Pierre, La Victoire and Bellepierre. It has four university residences.


Frédéric Miranville


84 degrees, between Degrees and Master. Five faculties: Health Sciences, Science and Technology, Human and Social Sciences, Law, Economics and Management, and Arts, Language and Literature.


Seven university libraries.

Strategic orientations

  1. Accompaniment and academic success of the students. Offer adapted training and create bridges to areas of excellence, lifelong learning and student entrepreneurship.
  2. Excellence in research.
  3. International openness and regional cooperation: an ambitious strategy of establishment in the fields of training, research and innovation.
  4. Life in attractive eco-campuses, with international visibility.
  5. A balanced and representative management model, a digital strategy and tools for a collective project.

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