Research funding

Excellence on Hold

Bafög wird erhöht
Will they still be there in 2018?
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    German universities have been paralyzed by the lack of a decision to extend the Excellence Initiative as they don’t know if its funding will be available beyond 2018.

  • Facts


    • Germany’s Excellence Initiative is designed to promote competition between top universities to improve research.
    • The program has paid out €5 billion since 2005 and helped to create 11 elite universities.
    • It is due to end in 2018 and so far the government has not formally agreed to extend it.
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This Wednesday, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, made an appearance at a business summit in Berlin where research was high on the agenda. There was mutual back-patting all round. After all, the big goal to spend 3 percent – and rising – of Germany’s gross national product on research every year has been achieved.

However, all is not quite as it seems: One core research project, the Excellence Initiative for German universities, has been put on hold and its future is far from clear.

This is despite the program, designed to promote competition between top universities to improve research, having a proven track record. It has seen an additional €5 billion, or $5.5 billion, of taxpayers’ money pumped into leading research institutions since 2005.

This created more academic activity than ever before. Tens of thousands of new research positions were created, the top-level education of young scientists was reorganized, and, most importantly, 11 universities were declared elite universities and were able to promote themselves internationally using the accolade.

For the first time, it also became possible to overcome the gulf isolating the research done by universities from that by other research organizations. The reward has been that the international research community is again showing interest in German universities – thanks to the Excellence Initiative.

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