The network of French Research Institutes Abroad (IFRE)


An affirmation of the richness and diversity of French scientific thinking The network of French research institutes abroad (IFRE), a structure placed under the joint oversight of the MAE and the national centre for scientific research (CNRS) in 2007, today consists of 27 establishments and seven branches. It operates in 34 countries and is host to 19 CNRS research service units, including four regional units. Of the 27 Institutes, 25 are financially autonomous establishments (EAF) and two (Johannesburg and Frankfurt) are part of an Institut Français structure.

France can legitimately lay claim to a presence, in terms of numbers of researchers and, above all, of long-established research structures, unrivalled by any other Western nation, in Iran, Nigeria and Tunisia, for example.

  • On another note, the Maison Française d’Oxford is the only foreign research institute of its kind to be hosted by the world’s most famous university.
  • The Institutes provide France with a capacity for reactivity that conventional research structures are unable to match; this is due in large part to their integration into the mechanism of cooperation, which guarantees them both security and independence.

The network is made up of 27 Research Institutes and seven branches, with 146 expatriate researchers specialising in the humanities and social sciences and in archaeology. The network was forged by history itself and has evolved and grown, successfully adapting to successive upheavals in the world: Oxford in 1946, Teheran in 1947, Pondicherry in 1955, Prague and Berlin in 1991 and 1992, Tashkent also in 1992, Johannesburg in 1994, etc.

As an affirmation of the richness and diversity of French scientific thinking in the field of the humanities and social sciences, the IFRE network offers a remarkable vantage point from which to observe the political, economic and social transitions affecting the regions in which they are located. Its main focus is on research programmes, scientific publication and training, but also on the history of past civilisations, as revealed by archaeological research. IFRE research programmes form part of the landscape of local research, conducted in partnership with the institutions and organisations of the country and the region. The strict scientific criteria on which researchers are recruited must be matched by a degree of open-mindedness and adaptability required to create a true knowledge network. The IFRE network enriches our understanding of partner countries and strengthens the relationship of trust established with them.

History of the IFRE networkThe network of French research institutes abroad (IFRE), created in the late 19th century, has grown in step with key moments in French diplomatic history:

the period of Oriental archaeology, the starting point, beginning with the French archaeological mission in Iran (1890), forerunner of the French Institute in Iran (IFRI), and the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA, 1923);

the period of decolonisation that saw research in the humanities and social sciences turn its attention to new parts of the world: this period saw the creation of the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) in 1955, and the French archaeological mission in Ethiopia (1955);

with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new economic powers in Asia, new borders were drawn and old borders erased, opening up fresh fields of research into societies, regions and population flows. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, France opened the Marc Bloch Centre in Berlin; the Institute for Central Asian Studies was established in Tashkent in 1992, and the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asian Studies (IRCASEC) was set up in Bangkok in 2001, to name but three.

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