What is it ? (official text extracted from IUF web site : IUF)

The mission of the Institut universitaire de France is to promote the development of an high quality university research, and to strengthen interdisciplinary projects.
It was created by a decree on August 1991, 26th under the form of a department of the ministry in charge of high education, to recognize and encourage the scientific activities of high level teachers searchers in their own university, and not through the classical way of a nomination in a famous Parisian university, in a research structure, or in a foreign country.
Confronted with the double challenge of the French universities: being both a university for a majority but also a top flight university which can be compared to the best European and international institutions, the IUF aims two objectives:
# Encourage the universities to strive to excellence and to improve the material conditions of the teachers s scientific research,
# Contribute to a balanced distribution of this excellence throughout the country. So, at least, two thirds of the IUF members must belong to universities located outside the city of Paris.

The main challenge of the IUF is to make high education attractive to most creative searchers, and to face the growing competition, as a result of internationalism.
The originality of the IUF can be defined by several features:
# All the disciplines are represented at the IUF, in respecting a balance between scientific and medical disciplines on the one hand, and arts, humanities and social sciences on the other: in each annual list of laureates, at least one third of the senior members and at least two fifths of the junior ones must belong to one of those disciplines group.
# The IUF members, all of them being teachings-searchers, keep on teaching in their own universities, through the frame of an appropriate teaching schedule, and receive specific research credits.
# They are nominated for a period limited to five year, which can be once renewed. So, this is not a fixed statute.
# The junior and senior members are selected by two separated international juries, since they must be composed by at least 40% foreign scientists. So, it ensures a constant renewal and no one among the laureates can be co-opted.
The applications have to be proposed (for the seniors) or supported (for the juniors) by two scientific personalities, one of them must be a foreigner. There is no hearing procedure: the evaluations of the juries are based on the scientific work (innovation, interdisciplinary projects, international reputation, prizes and awards, and the ability of the applicant in leading a team, in developing a project and the quality of this project.
Originally fixed to 40, the number of the laureates has steadily increased since the year 2006. As for the year 2010, it has been fixed to 150: eighty five junior members aged less than forty, and sixty five senior ones, that will leads in 2015 to a total number of 750 members.
By September 1st 2010, 935 teaching-searchers have benefited or benefit by the IUF member status, which represents about 2 per cent of the number of teaching-searchers working in the French universities.
As a conclusion, it can be said that the IUF, a structure “without walls” guarantees to its members autonomy and freedom, constitutes a network in constant renewal aiming to excellence throughout France.