French Government Fellowships

The idea that Churchill College might host visiting Fellows sponsored by the French Government was the brainchild of Sir John (Jock) Colville (1915-1987), seemingly to provide an explicit way for France to contribute to Sir Winston’s memorial. Colville had been Churchill’s Private Secretary during and after the Second World War; he was very well connected in diplomatic and financial circles and had been instrumental in helping to raise funds for the establishment of the College. He was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1971 and continued to work enthusiastically on behalf of the College.

In February 1975, apparently on his own initiative, he wrote to the French Ambassador in London, M. Jaques de Beaumarchais, suggesting that the French Government might like to fund a Fellowship at Churchill College, to be held by visiting French academics. He listed the five Frenchmen who had held Overseas Fellowships at the College in the preceding decade (two professors of physics and three of French literature) and suggested that, given the science bias of the College, support for French scientists might be most appropriate.

Following consultation with the French Government the Ambassador responded in July with an offer of 100,000 Francs to initiate a Fellowship scheme, which the College gratefully accepted, and a formal exchange of letters took place in early 1976. Colville’s subsequent attempts to secure additional funds from Mme. Pol Roger and Moet & Chandon (a nod to Churchill’s love of champagne), as a permanent endowment, were unsuccessful.

The first two academics specifically sponsored by the French Government came to Churchill College in the autumn of 1976:  Dr Christian Colliex, a physicist based in CNRS, Université de Paris Sud, who collaborated with Archie Howie and Prof Claude Bergman, a physiologist from Université de Paris VII, who worked with Richard Keynes. Early visitors were given the title of Fellow Commoner, but from 1983 they were accorded the status of Overseas Fellow. Since 1976, Churchill College has welcomed 57 French academics as French Government Fellows, usually for periods between 6 months and a year.  The complete list appears below.

Celebratory events were organised in College to mark the 30th and 40th anniversaries of the French Government Fellowship scheme, with booklets to record some of the memories and impressions of past Fellows. More information about these events can be found at:

Petite Histoire

The past Fellows have also formed themselves into an informal Association that meets annually in the College and maintains contacts through

Applications for French Government Fellowships are managed by the Science Counsellor at the French Embassy in London.The Embassy issues an annual call for applications in France, and prepares a short-list of applications received for consideration by the College’s Fellowship Electors. Fellowships are now offered without restriction on subject or seniority, 2, 3 or 4 each year as funds allow.

SurnameFirst nameYearSubject
DexpertHervé1978Materials Science
FeixMarc1980Theoretical Plasma Physics
JanotChristian1981Solid State Physics
DuboisJean-Marie1982Materials Science
FriedelJacques1983Solid State Physics
CuisenierJean1984Social Anthropology
GaleyJean-Claude1988Social Anthropology
AndreauJean1990Social Sciences
RosettaLyliane1993Biological Anthropology
GuiardYves1996Experimental Psychology
de Bougrenet de la TocnayeJean-Louis1997Engineering
ChampionYannick1999Materials Science
LebrasHervé2002Social Sciences
LaveryRichard2003Biology & Physical Chemistry
JamiCatherine2004History of Chinese Mathematics
SellierAntoine2007Fluid Mechanics
GaigeotMarie-Pierre2008Physics & Physical Chemistry
CalvoFlorent2010Chemical Physics
ThébaudChristophe2011Evolutionary Biology
Di MeglioJean-Marc2011Physics
GanierEmmanuel2012Climate & Health
CharmantierAnne2012Evolutionary Biology
GuessasmaSofiane2013Mechanical Engineering
RouquetteSebastien2013Mechanical & Civil Engineering
ThalabardJean-Christophe2013Human Reproductive Ecology
ParentEric2013Environmental Engineering
DragomirescuDaniela2014Electrical Engineering
HolcmanDavid2015Computational Biology
ChambolleAntonin2015Applied Mathematics
PierBenoît2015Fluid Dynamics
MichelinSebastian2017Fluid Dynamics
VandammeMathieu2017Civil Engineering
BénatouilThomas2019Ancient Philosophy