German Universities Excellence Initiative

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Map showing Germany's eleven elite "Universities of Excellence", in 2012

The Excellence Initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Research Foundation aims to promote cutting-edge research and to create outstanding conditions for young scientists at universities, to deepen cooperation between disciplines and institutions, to strengthen international cooperation of research, and to enhance the international appeal of excellent German universities. It is the result of lengthy negotiations between the federal government and the German states.[1]

Since almost all German universities are public (most private universities do not have the official German "Universitätsstatus"), and therefore mainly paid by taxes and generally egalitarian, there is no German Ivy League of institutions of higher education. However, the Excellence Initiative aims to strengthen some selected universities more than others in order to raise their international visibility. The initiative is conducted by the German Research Foundation (DFG) together with the German Council of Science and Humanities (WR). More than 30 universities in total received funding. It includes three lines of funding:

1st line of funding: The establishment of more than 40 research schools for young scientists and PhD candidates, which will receive one million euros each per year.

2nd line of funding: The creation of thirty so-called Clusters of Excellence, that connect universities with leading German research institutes and businesses. Annually, these clusters will receive around 6.5 million euros each to fund their work.

3rd line of funding: The selection of 11 Universities of Excellence, which will be funded highly for their "future concepts", i.e., institutional strategies to promote top-level university research.[1] Particularly this third line of funding has drawn appreciable international attention, both in academia and media.[2]

Altogether 2.7 billion euros (1.9 billion for 2007-2012) of additional funds will be distributed over the coming five years, most of this coming from the federal government. The German Council of Science and Humanities is responsible for the third line of funding, and the German Research Foundation is responsible for the first and second lines of funding. These funds are to be available in the first instance for the universities and their partner institutions until 2017.[1]

Results[edit]

Winners: Future Concept 2012[edit]

Out of the 140 universities[3] in Germany 11 universities were chosen, among them five new winners (HU Berlin, University of Bremen, University of Cologne, TU Dresden, University of Tübingen) and six title holders: RWTH Aachen, FU Berlin, Heidelberg University, University of Konstanz, LMU Munich, and Technical University of Munich. These universities are commonly referred to by the media as "elite universities".[2][4] As in 2006 and 2007, also other universities were awarded for special clusters of excellence and renowned graduate schools.

University Title Year of Award
RWTH Aachen University RWTH 2020: Meeting Global Challenges 2007
Freie Universität Berlin International Network University 2007
Humboldt University of Berlin Education through science 2012
University of Bremen AMBITIOUS AND AGILE 2012
University of Cologne Meeting the Challenge of Change and Complexity 2012
Dresden University of Technology The synergetic university 2012
Heidelberg University Heidelberg: Realizing the Potential of a Comprehensive University 2007
University of Konstanz Model Konstanz - towards a culture of creativity 2007
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich LMUexcellent: Working brains – Networking minds – Living knowledge 2006
Technical University of Munich TUM. The Entrepreneurial University 2006
University of Tübingen Research − Relevance − Responsibility 2012

Winners: Future Concept 2006/2007[edit]

University Title Year of Award
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich LMUexcellent: Working brains – Networking minds – Living knowledge 2006
Technical University of Munich TUM. The Entrepreneurial University 2006
University of Karlsruhe A Concept for the Future of the University of Karlsruhe. The Foundation of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) 2006
RWTH Aachen University RWTH 2020: Meeting Global Challenges 2007
Freie Universität Berlin International Network University 2007
University of Freiburg Windows for Research, New Universitas 2007
University of Göttingen Göttingen. Tradition – Innovation – Autonomie 2007
Heidelberg University Heidelberg: Realizing the Potential of a Comprehensive University 2007
University of Konstanz Model Konstanz - towards a culture of creativity 2007

The funding for a future concept does often, but not necessarily result in a superior overall budget compared to other German universities. For example, due to its small size, the University of Constance is despite this additional means, not included in the top 20 funded universities in Germany.[citation needed]

Current international standing[edit]

According to the Third European Report on Science & Technology Indicators, an official document compiled by the European Commission, four of the Universities of Excellence are among Europe's top 10 universities: Technical University of Munich (joint 3rd), Freiburg (joint 6th), Karlsruhe (joint 6th), and Heidelberg (joint 9th).[5][6]

In the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2012, Technical University of Munich (53), LMU Munich (60), Heidelberg (62), and Freiburg (99) are included in the global top 100, heading the field of German universities by those criteria.[7]

Eight of the eleven Universities of Excellence are included in the world's top 250 universities, according to the QS World University Ranking 2012: Technical University of Munich (53); Heidelberg (55); LMU Munich (60); Free University of Berlin (87); Humboldt University of Berlin (130); Tübingen (144); RWTH Aachen (150); Cologne (247). The Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2012 ranks 8 of these 11 Universities of Excellence among the world's 250 top universities: LMU Munich (45); Heidelberg (73); Technical University of Munich (88); Humboldt University of Berlin (109); Free University of Berlin (151); RWTH Aachen (168); Tübingen (187); Konstanz (194).

Federal Education Minister Annette Schavan said following the awards ceremony, "The excellence initiative is writing scientific history. Research at German universities finds itself on a successful, international course."[8]

Winners: Graduate Schools[edit]

Source: Federal Ministry of Education[9]

(coordinating) University Graduate School Year of Award
RWTH Aachen University Aachen Institute for Advanced Study in Computational Engineering Science 2006
Freie Universität Berlin Graduate School of North American Studies (John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies) 2006
Humboldt University of Berlin Berlin School of Mind and Brain 2006
Technical University Berlin (FU Berlin, HU Berlin) Berlin Mathematical School 2006
Ruhr University Bochum Ruhr University Research School 2006
University of Bonn Bonn Graduate School of Economics 2006
University of Bremen Global Change in the Marine Realm 2006
Dresden University of Technology Dresden International Graduate School for Biomedicine and Bioengineering 2006
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Erlangen Graduate School in Advanced Optical Technologies 2006
University of Freiburg Spemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine 2006
University of Gießen International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture 2006
Hannover Medical School Hannover Biomedical Research School 2006
Heidelberg University Heidelberg Graduate School of Fundamental Physics
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Karlsruhe School of Optics and Photonics 2006
University of Mannheim Empirical and Quantitative Methods in the Economic and Social Sciences 2006
Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences 2006
Technical University Munich International Graduate School of Science and Engineering 2006
Saarland University Multimodal Computing and Interaction 2006
University of Würzburg Graduate School for Life Sciences 2006
University of Bayreuth Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies 2007
Freie Universität Berlin Muslim Cultures and Societies: Unity and Diversity 2007
Freie Universität Berlin Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies 2007
Humboldt University of Berlin Berlin-Brandenburg School for Regenerative Therapies 2007
Humboldt University of Berlin Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences 2007
University of Bielefeld Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology 2007
University of Bonn Bonn-Cologne Graduate School of Physics and Astronomy 2007
University of Bremen Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences 2007
Darmstadt University of Technology Graduate School of Computational Engineering “Beyond Traditional Sciences” 2007
University of Göttingen Göttingen Graduate School for Neurosciences and Molecular Biosciences 2007
Heidelberg University Heidelberg Graduate School of Mathematical and Computational Methods for the Sciences 2007
Heidelberg University The Hartmut Hoffmann-Berling International Graduate School of Molecular and Cellular Biology 2007
University of Jena Jena School for Microbial Communication 2007
University of Kiel Graduate School for Integrated Studies of Human Development in Landscapes 2007
University of Konstanz Konstanz Research School “Chemical Biology” 2007
University of Leipzig Building with Molecules and Nano-Objects 2007
University of Lübeck Graduate School for Computing in Medicine and Life Sciences 2007
University of Mainz Materials Science in Mainz 2007
Saarland University Saarbrücken Graduate School of Computer Science 2007
University of Stuttgart Graduate School for advanced Manufacturing Engineering in Stuttgart (GSaME) 2007
University of Ulm International Graduate School in Molecular Medicine Ulm 2007

Winners: Clusters of Excellence[edit]

(coordinating) University Clusters of Excellence Year of Award
RWTH Aachen University Integrative Production Technology for High-Wage Countries 2006
RWTH Aachen University Ultra High-Speed Mobile Information and Communication (UMIC) 2006
Freie Universität Berlin / Humboldt University of Berlin Topoi. The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations 2006
University of Bonn Mathematics: Foundations, Models, Applications 2006
Dresden University of Technology From Cells to Tissues to Therapies: Engineering the Cellular Basis of Regeneration 2006
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main Macromolecular Complexes 2006
University of Gießen Cardio-Pulmonary System 2006
University of Göttingen Microscopy at the Nanometer Range 2006
Hannover Medical School From Regenerative Biology to Reconstructive Therapy 2006
Heidelberg University Cellular Networks: From Analysis of Molecular Mechanisms to a Quantitative Understanding of Complex Functions 2006
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Center for Functional Nanostructures 2006
University of Kiel The Future Ocean 2006
University of Konstanz Cultural Foundations of Social Integration 2006
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Center for Integrated Protein Science Munich 2006
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Munich Center for Advanced Photonics 2006
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Nanosystems Initiative Munich 2006
Technical University of Munich Cognition for Technical Systems 2006
Technical University of Munich Origin and Structure of the Universe – The Cluster of Excellence for Fundamental Physics 2006
RWTH Aachen University Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass 2007
Freie Universität Berlin Languages of Emotion 2007
Humboldt-Universität Berlin NeuroCure: Towards a Better Outcome of Neurological Disorders 2007
Technical University of Berlin Unifying Concepts in Catalysis 2007
University of Bielefeld Cognitive Interaction Technology 2007
University of Bremen The Ocean in the Earth System 2007
Darmstadt University of Technology Smart Interfaces: Understanding and Designing Fluid Boundaries 2007
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Engineering of Advanced Materials – Hierarchical Structure Formation for Functional Devices 2007
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main Formation of Normative Orders 2007
University of Freiburg Centre for Biological Signalling Studies – From Analysis to Synthesis 2007
University of Hamburg Integrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction 2007
University of Hannover Centre for Quantum Engineering and Space-Time Research (QUEST) 2007
Heidelberg University Asia and Europe in a Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows (EXC270) 2007
University of Kiel Inflammation at Interfaces 2007
University of Cologne Cellular Stress Responses in Aging-Associated Diseases 2007
University of Münster Religion and Politics in Pre-Modern and Modern Cultures 2007
Saarland University Multimodal Computing and Interaction 2007
University of Stuttgart Simulation Technology 2007
University of Tübingen CIN – Centre for Integrative Neuroscience 2007

Criticism[edit]

Whether the Excellence Initiative has had a positive effect is currently a matter of debate. A report by the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre indicates that the program failed to create more diverse education options and produced little in the way of lasting change.[10] Additionally, the Goethe Institut claims that an additional criticism is that "competition up to now has focussed [sic] exclusively on the research rather than the teaching at universities", that prevailing qualitative imbalances in East and West German education systems may potentially be perpetuated via the program (by favoring more established Western universities over their younger Eastern counterparts), and, furthermore, that the funding may actually be insufficient to achieve the goal of creating "globally competitive universities".[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c German Science Council: The Excellence Initiative.
  2. ^ a b "A German Ivy League Takes Shape". SCIENCE / AAAS. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  3. ^ "Liste deutscher Universitäten". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  4. ^ "Elite-Unis: Jubel in den Südstaaten". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  5. ^ "CORDIS: Science and Technology Indicators: Snapshots" (pdf). Third European Report on Science and Technology Indicators. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  6. ^ "CORDIS: Science and Technology Indicators: full version". Third European Report on Science and Technology Indicators. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  7. ^ "ARWU 2012". Academic Ranking of World Universities 2012 ("Shanghai Ranking"). Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  8. ^ Comment of Anette Schavan on the results of the Excellence Initiative
  9. ^ Bundesbildungsministerium: „Exzellenzinitiative“, Abschnitt Graduiertenschulen
  10. ^ "Multibillion-Dollar Program Has Had Little Effect at German Universities, Report Says". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 
  11. ^ Himmelrath, Armin. "Two Years Excellence Initiative: A Balance". Goethe Institut. Retrieved 21 January 2014.