European Centre for Competence and Knowledge in Border Studies


The multilateral "European Centre for Competence and Knowledge in Border Studies" project (Interreg VA GR, 2018-2022) brought together 80 border researchers from all areas of the Greater Region. It has systematically developed a scientific discipline that is indispensable to the Greater Region and is now firmly anchored for the long term in the six partner universities making up the University of the Greater Region (UniGR). Its strategic importance is reflected not in only the sponsorship of the project by the UniGR a.s.b.l., which promotes border studies as a core area of inter-regional academic cooperation, but also in the co-funding by the Walloon Region and Saarland in addition to the European co-funding.

Project duration

Project budget
including 54.71% ERDF co-funding (€2,569,17.92)

Walloon Region

Project partners
University of the Greater Region
University of Luxembourg
Technical University of Kaiserslautern
University of Lorraine
University of Liège
Saarland University
University of Trier

Strategic partners
Deutsch-Französische Hochschule (DFH)
Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (MOT)
Ministry of Energy and Spatial Planning of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Interregionale Arbeitsmarktbeobachtungsstelle (Info-Institut)



Associated partners
Institut der Großregion
EVTZ Esch-Belval
Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, University of Liège
Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, University of Lorraine
CEUS - Cluster for European Research, Saarland University
Eurodistrict Saar-Moselle


Project goals and spheres of action

The project achieved a twofold objective:

(1) The academic and structural foundations were laid for an interdisciplinary competence centre, UniGR-Center for Border Studies. The Conference of Presidents and Rectors of the UniGR Universities was made permanent at the end of the project and, in accordance with the UniGR development plan, combines the strengths of the six partners in the border studies field for the long term.

(2) At the same time the project allowed the establishment of close relationships with the stakeholders in the Greater Region and the development of regional expertise, especially in the field of cross-border spatial development. The foundations were thus successfully laid for the competence centre, so that it can continue the evidence-based shaping of the Greater Region in the future.

These strategic objectives, from which researchers, stakeholders and students will benefit for a long time to come, were achieved in seven complementary spheres of action:

(1) Joint governance and management for the development and testing of cooperation processes within the framework of the UniGR academic collaboration

(2) Joint communication about the Greater Region as an excellent location for border studies and joint dissemination of research findings at Greater Regional and international level

(3) Joint setting up and development of research infrastructure ( to consolidate interdisciplinary academic dialogue, to provide cross-border access to relevant knowledge and facilitate the dissemination of research findings

(4) Joint interregional mobility measures to foster exchanges of border researchers in the different UniGR universities, the hosting of international guest academics in the Greater Region and the development of research projects

(5) Joint measures on cross-border higher education to increase the attractiveness of the intercultural study offering in border studies (a Master’s in Border Studies)

(6) Joint setting up of a dialogue platform for science, politics, administration and civil society on relevant socio-economic and socio-cultural challenges in the Greater Region.

(7) Joint measures in favour of the cross-border combination of regional areas of expertise and academic support for the development of the spatial development concept of the Greater Region (REK-GR)

All the actions in the various fields were implemented according to the principle of co-coordination, with researchers from two different universities in each case, and were organised in line with the academic project concept.

Academic dimension

The scientific quality of the projects was demonstrated by the practical project organisation and in the scientific project findings.

Steering committee made up of academics and academic advisory board: The project was managed, under the leadership of the UniGR a.s.b.l., by a multilateral steering committee made up of 15 border researchers from the six universities in all of the areas of the Greater Region. The steering committee was supported by an academic advisory board of 14 border researchers from the Greater Region and five international border researchers.

Academic project coordination: Operational project management was divided between administrative responsibility, which was undertaken by the UniGR a.s.b.l. Central Office, and academic coordination (University of Luxemburg), which ensured that the project activities were consistent with the overall academic concept.

Academic publications: The academic output of the project included, among other things, the setting up and publishing of publications in three formats targeted at academic and student readers as well as political and administrative actors. The (1) “Borders in Perspective” thematic journal, (2) Working Papers and (3) Policy Papers have allowed the particular research findings to be disseminated quickly by members of academic networks, and well as enriching expert debate and providing the stakeholders in the Greater Region with relevant knowledge. The Greater Region benefited in particular with regard to the spatial development concept (REK-GR) as well as from the lessons learned from the analysis of the border closures during the pandemic (2020/21). The scientific papers dealt with empirical/practical as well as theoretical/conceptual issues and were always peer reviewed. This was conducted by the academic editorial committee, which consisted of seven border researchers from all parts of the Greater Region.

Specialist academic glossary of “border research” terms: Border research is a multidisciplinary field of work which is characterised by diverse research bases, interests and streams. The specialist glossary systematises this diversity and provides a common technical language as a basis for cross-border academic cooperation. It encompasses central concepts and terms from fields relevant to the Greater Region and is aimed at researchers, students and socio-economic actors. The glossary containing 43 entries – each one in three languages – was drawn up by border researchers from the Greater Region based on their respective areas of expertise. A peer review process with multiple revision loops under the responsibility of the coordinating border researchers as well as structured interdisciplinary exchanges at three project workshops ensured the quality of the specialist glossary.

Interregional and international academic cooperation: The project has developed lasting academic cooperation links between borders researchers from the Greater Region as well as with excellent border researchers from eight countries in Europe and America. 17 two-month research fellowships were organised at the six university sites, each of them serving to conduct an academic project, on which the guest researchers worked with border researchers belonging to the host university. The recipients of the grants were selected by a structured application process, in which a selection committee made up of six border researchers representing all of the areas of the Greater Region carefully examined the academic quality of a total of 44 project proposals and whether they were consistent with the academic concept. The results of these research periods were published in the project’s different publication formats and discussed at networking workshops. The 2019 and 2021/22 academic cooperation operations strengthened the interregional and international border research network in the Greater Region and led to further, ongoing collaboration.

129 academic publications and a significant presence at international conferences: Over the course of the project the border researchers published scientific papers within the framework of their regular activities and gave presentations at scientific conferences. The articles and conference papers, which have given the Greater Region visibility as a centre of excellence in border research and provided an impetus for further research, concerned topics relevant to the Greater Region and beyond. Between 2018 and 2021, the project generated a total of 129 publications, including seven edited volumes, two monographs, 73 book chapters, 29 articles and 18 other publications. In addition the border researchers regularly took part in various annual conferences in relevant disciplines, presenting papers on their subjects. Examples include the annual conferences of the Association for Borderlands Studies, the International Migration Research Network, the Kulturwissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft, the Association de Science Régionale de Langue Française and many others.

Cross-border dimension

Multilateral academic cooperation developed in the Greater Region for the long term: One of the aims of the project was to structure and enhance the cross-border dimension of border research in the Greater Region. A series of joint workshops involving border researchers from all the areas of the Greater Region held in 2016-2017 conceptualised and built on a Greater Regional network of about twenty border researchers that had already been created in 2014 with the support of the University of the Greater Region (UniGR). This not only succeeded in expanding the initially informal collaboration between the border researchers, but also consolidated it from a qualitative point of view and led to the creation, with the support of the six university presidents, of a durable, interdisciplinary UniGR competence centre. This rigorous development, in which up to 80 border researchers from all the parts of the Greater Region were involved, successfully unlocked the endogenous potential of the Greater Region for the benefit of the Greater Region and has substantially bolstered the profile of the cross-border higher education area.

Systematic establishment of multilateral collaboration with stakeholders: With a view to long-term collaboration with stakeholders in the Greater Region and beyond, ten strategic, associated partners from all parts of the Greater Region have been involved in the implementation of the actions in the fields. These include actors in cross-border municipal cooperation, cross-border spatial monitoring, bodies representing the interests of European border regions, cross-border research and teaching and regional academic bodies.

Multilateral collaboration with stakeholders in Greater Regional spatial development consolidated: In addition the ongoing dialogue between the border researchers and the multilateral coordinating committee on spatial development (Koordinierungsausschuss für Raumentwicklung, KARE) was structurally anchored in the project. It formed the bridge with the Interreg VA Greater Region spatial development project (Raumentwicklungskonzept der Großregion, REK-GR), which was scientifically supported by the border researchers. The collaborative work was done in joint workshops with up to 50 participants, who came from all the areas of the Greater Region, thematic networking meetings and through the transfer of academic expertise.

Precisely 429 participants mobilised through a multilateral networking platform: The cross-border dimension of the project is also apparent in the successful networking and cooperation between the different border researchers. In addition to the 17 interregional and international short-term research fellowships for guest academics, eight scientific Border Studies seminars were also held. The two-day seminars were open exclusively to border researchers from the Greater Region, and each one dealt with a key topic in interdisciplinary border research. The series of cross-border seminars, which mobilised precisely 429 participants from all parts of the Greater Regions and which has continued since the end of the project, provides an open and productive platform for border researchers in the Greater Region: here an academic dialogue that crosses disciplinary boundaries takes place, collegial relationships that cross national borders are cemented, academic topics are discussed openly and without disciplinary bias and joint research projects are developed.

45 border researchers organised in multilateral working groups: The series of academic Border Studies seminars led to the creation of a cross-border platform, on which the border researchers have also joined together to form thematic working groups. The working groups, which were formed during the project period and continue working now that it has ended, have 45 border researcher members who come from all the parts of the Greater Region. They work on subjects in the areas of border research relevant to the Greater Region, maintain contacts with stakeholders in the Greater Region, organise events, disseminate research findings and develop joint research projects.

Societal dimension

Cross-border knowledge transfer focused on stakeholders and citizens: Throughout the project the border researchers developed a trilingual working and information tool for the stakeholders in the Greater Region and other social target groups. The digital Border Studies knowledge and documentation centre is a freely accessible online database, which contains more than 200 carefully compiled entries on cross-border topics. The entries were written by 32 border researchers from all parts of the Greater Region based on their individual expertise and succinctly summarise both key reference documents on cross-border cooperation and findings from border research. A practical search function makes targeted knowledge on border research subjects in areas relevant to the Greater Region easy to access and call up. Serving as an instrument of cross-border knowledge transfer, the digital knowledge and documentation centre supports the stakeholders in the Greater Region in their day-to-day work; it provides a low-threshold information offer for citizens and forms a valuable resource for students and researchers.

Border region expertise unlocked for the stakeholders in the Greater Region: As part of the series of project publications, the border researchers have created a Policy Paper series. These policy papers are directed at decision-makers and stakeholders in the Greater Region and serve to disseminate the results of the interdisciplinary border research work done on topics relevant to the Greater Region in the form of brief expert reports and policy recommendations. During the course of the project four multilingual editions were published, which dealt with collaboration on spatial planning, the actions required in spatial development, the issues of training and jobs and French-German cooperation in the Greater Region. The Policy Paper series, which is continuing now the project is finished, is enabling knowledge to be transferred between academia and politicians and providing an evidence-based impetus for an integrative development of the Greater Region.

A Greater Regional digital platform with a societal reach established: During the course of the project the border researchers established the “Greater Region Forum” as a significant interface between academia, administration, politics and civil society. The Forum, which has also continued since the end of the project, has been perceived as a platform for dialogue on topics concerning the Greater Region. A series of public panel discussions consisted of seven events featuring 37 speakers, who discussed the challenges currently facing the Greater Region. Over 370 people took part in the Forum, half of whom represented the stakeholders, while 40% were researchers and 10% members of the public. During the project, the border researchers succeeded in establishing a dialogue platform with a considerable reach in society, with whose help it has been possible to work in a participatory process on the needs for knowledge and actions to deal with the challenges facing the Greater Region.

A MOOC developed on Cross-border Spatial Analysis and over 4,000 students reached: Based on their expertise the border researchers developed and implemented a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The 5-week course in French entitled “Au-delà des frontières, diagnostiquer les territoires” (Beyond borders, diagnosing territories) dealt with the analysis of border regions with numerous examples from the Greater Region. This online course with a modern didactic approach was run twice during the project lifetime. It was taken by 4,138 students. Thanks to this MOOC the attractiveness of the educational offer in the Greater Region was able to be noticeably enhanced and the subject of borders more firmly anchored in university teaching.

Digital teaching and learning materials on the Greater Region compiled for universities and schools: The border researchers developed online teaching and learning materials for use in universities. They are organised according to target group in a digital interactive map, from which the didactically prepared multimedia content, on the industrial history of the Greater Region, can be called up. Over fifty 50 carefully prepared entries have been created by border researchers and technicians. The digital map widens young people’s knowledge of the Greater Region and has multiple applications as teaching and learning material.

Over 50 planning practitioners, politicians and students benefited from advanced training on planning culture and cross-border spatial planning: During the course of the project the border researchers implemented two advanced cross-border training courses on planning culture and cross-border spatial planning. These involved the use of the business simulation game as an educational approach, which the Spatial Planning working group specifically adapted for use with target groups of adults in multilingual cross-border contexts. The interactive approach allowed a tangible experimental experience of cross-border cooperation in spatial planning and supported participants' learning from each other. The more than 50 participants, planning practitioners, politicians and students successfully solved the problem, which was to develop a cross-border ecoregion through the joint revitalisation of a fictitious industrial wasteland stretching across several of the regions making up the Greater Region. The simulation game allowed participants to work out the different approaches to spatial planning and planning cultures in the Greater Region and through practical exercises to break down many barriers to cooperation due to misunderstandings. The training sessions, which are still being offered even though the project has ended, were academically accompanied and evaluated by the border researchers.

Continuity of academic cooperation in the Greater Region

With the multilateral European Center for Competence and Knowledge in Border Studies project (Interreg VA GR, 2018-2022), the border researchers have laid the academic and structural foundations for a cross-border research focus in the Greater Region. This strategic approach has been consistently supported by the presidents and rectors of the Greater Region’s universities, who have declared the collaboration of the border researchers in 2022 as a long-term cross-border cooperation policy for the UniGR Competence Centre. The instrument of the UniGR Competence Centre is a permanent component of the UniGR development plan, thereby also giving border area research a privileged role in academic cooperation in the Greater Region for the future.