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International Comparative Rural Policy Studies (ICRPS)

ICRPS is an international programme which brings together a multi-disciplinary group of faculty, students and professionals to study the many facets of rural policy, from formulation to impacts. It has been developed by a Consortium comprising faculty from 16 universities in North America and Europe. The main aim is to enable students to examine and compare the nature, role and impacts of rural policy in different cultural, political and administrative contexts. It also provides the opportunity to study the implications of new forms of governance in rural contexts, and to consider global issues in a range of local contexts. The key features of programme are the annual two-week summer institute, comparative rural policy research, and online distance learning courses.

I was one of the founders of the ICRPS (initially with TonyFuller at Guelph and Tom Johnson at RUPRI), while on sabbatical with RUPRI and based at the University of Missouri Columbia in 2001. RUPRI hosted a gathering of Europeans and Canadians to discuss the idea, and I worked with Tony Fuller and Nonita Yapp at Guelph to secure some start-up funding from the joint EU-Canada programme for cooperation in further and higher education. This we did in 2003, and our first Summer Institute was held at Guelph in 2004. Since then we have held a summer Institute every year, the most recent in Norway (2011)

The current ICRPS partnership involves NILF (Norway), the University of Life Sciences (Norway), the Universities of Missouri (United States), the University of Guelph (Canada), the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), the Université du Québec à Rimouski (Canada), Brandon University (Canada),The University of Highlands and Islands (UK), Oregon State University (US), Penn State University and the University of Bologna joined the Consortium as well. The very rich multi-cultural learning experience of over 180 graduate students, the engagement of faculty members and the involvement of the OECD Directorate of Public Governance and Territorial Development as well as over 40 governmental and non-governmental agencies testifies to the success of this much needed education and research program.  

The Faculty all volunteer to give their time to the summer Institute, allowing fees to be kept to a minimum. Students and Faculty all give the institute much praise as a unique and valuable learning experience, and several former students have also served as Faculty. It has not always been popular with participating Universities of funding bodies, as it does not fit standard models of transnational collaboration, but it has managed to be largely self-supporting with the help of only local sponsorship since 2006. Nevertheless, the partnership actively seeks programme support to further develop its core elements as well as more active networking activities.

The ICRPS core faculty members are leaders in their fields and their academic diversity and practical policy making experience in a range of fields provides an exciting learning experience. They are mainly social scientists (economists, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, human geographers) with a strong commitment to the study of rural policies and the territorial approach to rural development.

The ICRPS Summer Institute rotates around the consortium members, oscillating between N America and Europe. For students who wish to attend two consecutive institutes (one in North America and one in Europe), the program includes advanced topics and an opportunity to share research results with faculty and other students. Students work in groups to make presentations, analyze documents, prepare policy briefs, meet policy professionals and take part in field trips. Each intensive summer school connects faculty and international students in a dedicated learning environment. In addition, each summer school session is a combination of new and returning students, which enhances the mutual learning experience of both years.

The 2012 Summer Institute will be held in Quebec, Canada.

For more information, see

  1. As many will know, I was one of the founders of the International Comparative Rural Policy Studies programme which is a collaboration between Universities and Research Institutes in Europe, Canada, US and Mexico. We developed the idea while I was a visiting fellow with Tom Johnson and Chuck Fluharty at RUPRI, Columbia Missouri in 2001, and the first summer institute took place in Guelph in 2004. This year will be our tenth ICRPS summer institute, and we are holding an anniversary conference in the middle of the summer institute to mark this. Its in a wonderful location, and one day will be for presentations, the second for interesting field trips. While mainly for Faculty and Alumni, we welcome relevant proposals from other scholars. Please see the website for details. The link is

  2. This year will be the tenth anniversary of the ICRPS summer institutes. The Summer Institute will be held in Italy and organised by University of Bologna, one of the oldest universities in Europe. The venue is the Centro Universitario di Bertonrino (, and the dates ar 16-30 June. There will be a tenth anniversary ICRPS conference in the middle weekend of the summer institute, 22 & 23 June. See also the ICRPS website and links.

  3. We are just ending the 10th ICRPS summer institute, held at the Centre of the University of Bologna in beautiful Bertinoro, south east of Bologna and near to Forli. Our hosts – Matteo, Francesca, Fabio, Claudia and Roberta – did us proud, and we had a full and interesting programme including some wonderful field visits and local food and wine. The lovely ladies in the kitchen here even made us a 10th anniversary cake which we ate last night.
    Next years summer institute will be held in the Autonomous University of Mexico State in Mexico, and one of the topics will be the long term impacts of the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) on Mexico’s rural regions.

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