Excellence Strategy

The Excellence Initiative has successfully revitalised the German Higher Education landscape. Now a new programme is about to start and take the development another step further: the Excellence Strategy

The aim of the Excellence Strategy is to ensure that German universities fare even better in the face of international competition and achieve even more academic excellence. © BMBF/Hans-Joachim Rickel

Institutions of higher education engage in research and teaching and train young researchers. The Federal Government and the Länder launched the Initiative for Excellence in 2005 with a view to making universities even more attractive for outstanding students and researchers.

Excellence Initiative

The initiative has been very successful as demonstrated by the excellent research that has been performed in interdisciplinary and inter-departmental institutional cooperation and by the fact that German universities are networking more and more with higher education institutions throughout the world. The Excellence Initiative is extremely attractive and its appeal extends far beyond Germany’s national borders: An increasing number of researchers are coming to Germany from abroad. Other countries have launched their own programmes along the lines of the Excellence Initiative.

Excellence Strategy

Beginning in 2018, Germany is introducing a new initiative – the Excellence Strategy – to fund cutting-edge research at its universities. It takes the Excellence Initiative a step further. The new strategy has been agreed between the Federal Government and the Länder and will provide funding of 533 million euros per year (75% Federal Government, 25% host Land of successful university).

Academic excellence

The aim of the Excellence Strategy is to ensure that German universities fare even better in the face of international competition and achieve even more academic excellence. Such beacons of research excellence have a positive effect on the entire higher education landscape and help to enhance Germany’s reputation as a hub for research and higher education. The evaluation of the Excellence Initiative confirms this effect.

The new Excellence Strategy consists of two funding lines:

Excellence Clusters

This funding line provides project-related funding in internationally competitive fields of research at individual universities or university alliances. Funding normally runs for two seven-year periods; new applications are possible. Decisions on funding excellence clusters under this funding line will be taken in September 2018. Universities with excellence clusters may apply for an additional university allowance. In total, around 385 million euros will be available per year for this funding line, which will fund up to 50 clusters each year.

Universities of Excellence

This funding line sets out to strengthen universities in the long term and enhance their leading international position in research on the basis of successful excellence clusters. Funding presupposes at least two clusters per individual university or three clusters in the case of university alliances. Funding of approximately 148 million euros per year will be made available to fund between eight and eleven universities of excellence. Decisions on funding universities of excellence under the funding line will be taken in July 2019. Fulfilment of the prerequisites for funding will be evaluated every seven years and funding will be discontinued should they not be fulfilled. This dynamic procedure, which is based on strict scientific competition, means that further proposals for universities of excellence can be expected in future.