The German National Academic Foundation (German: Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes, short: Studienstiftung) is Germany's largest organisation sponsoring students of outstanding academic achievements. It is non-political and non-denominational. Currently supporting about 0.5 percent of university students in Germany, it is sometimes referred to as "Germany's secret elite university". The Studienstiftung is funded by the Federal Government of Germany, the German Federal States and local authorities as well as by a large number of private donors. The foundation's official motto is Leistung, Initiative, Verantwortung (Achievement, Initiative, Responsibility).
The Studienstiftung promotes promising undergraduates and graduate students in the areas of science, the humanities, business, public administration, and the arts. Through its scholarship programme it aims at promoting academic consolidation, interdisciplinary dialogue, a cosmopolitan world view and international experience.
Currently, the foundation sponsors more than 11,000 undergraduates and about 1,300 PhD students (as of October 2010). Awards are granted after a multi-stage selection process and are based on grades, specialized exams, letters of recommendation, personality and character, and interviews with staff and affiliates of the foundation. Under the principles of uniformity and open access currently characteristic of German universities, the Studienstiftung serves as a main instrument to support highly gifted students in Germany.
Members of the Studienstiftung receive quarterly stipends for living and other expenses. Furthermore, they can participate in a wide range of seminars and summer schools, which are considered as even more important by the foundation, as well as in language courses and other extra-curricular activities.
Admission into the German National Academic Foundation is limited to students with German citizenship, students with a European Union nationality studying at a German university, or students of other nationalities with the German Abitur and studying at a German university.
For formally eligible students, there are two principal pathways to be admitted into the Studienstiftung :
Following nomination by an eligible individual or entity. Eligible for nominating students are:
- High school principals (when graduating from a gymnasium top of class)
- Professors at European universities
- Departments at German universities at which marked preliminary examinations are held
- Academic staff, rectors and presidents of universities of applied science
- Principals of German state colleges of art and music
- Doctoral supervisors
- Administrators of affiliated student competitions (for the top national finalists), with competitions being:
- International Science Olympiad
- Jugend forscht (science and engineering)
- Bundeswettbewerbe  (nationwide arts and science competitions in math, computer science, foreign language, classics, and history)
- Landeswettbewerb Deutsche Sprache und Literatur (statewide competitions in German language and literature)
- The zis Foundation for Travel Grants
- Alumni of the Studienstiftung (although this has not been openly advertised in recent years)
The Studienstiftung invites selected candidates to a two-day assessment center. Usually, the selection procedure comprises two individual interviews and several group discussions involving the presentation of a short topic or paper. Applicants are expected to have excelled in their academic achievements, to show a strong sense of initiative and responsibility. The Studienstiftung also expects candidates to have developed and continue pursuing extracurricular interests and activities. Political convictions, ideology, gender, religion as well as economic and social aspects play no role in the selection process.
The average success rate of nominated assessment center candidates depends on the type of nomination and ranges from 33.5% for freshmen to 54.8% for university nominations (2008). Since the nomination process in itself is already highly competitive, only 12000 out of 2.5 million students at German universities, i.e. about 0.5%, are sponsored by the Studienstiftung as of 2012. Until 2006 the German national academic foundation sponsored only 6000 students, i.e. 0.25% of the German student population.
Since 2010, students in their first or second term may choose to apply for a scholarship. They have to take part in a standardized admission test before being possibly invited to the assessment center. In the first application round held in 2010, 87 students from an original applicant pool of 1065 were offered admission after passing test and assessement center, corresponding to an overall admission rate of 8%.
The Studienstiftung was founded in Dresden in 1925, dissolved in 1934 and re-founded as a registered association in Cologne in 1948. During its existence, it has sponsored more than 50,000 students.
- See also Category:Studienstiftung alumni
- Wolfgang Ketterle, Nobel prize physics 2001
- Erwin Neher, Nobel prize medicine 1991
- Robert Huber, Nobel prize chemistry 1988
- J. Hans D. Jensen, Nobel prize physics 1963
- Manfred Eigen, Nobel prize chemistry 1962, former president of the Studienstiftung (1982–1993)
- Gerd Faltings, mathematician, Fields medal 1986
- Heinrich Detering Leibniz prize 2009
- Martin R. Zirnbauer, mathematician, Leibniz prize 2009
- Martin Beneke, physicist, Leibniz prize 2008
- Wolfgang Lück, mathematician, Leibniz prize 2008
- Jochen Mannhart, physicist, Leibniz prize 2008
- Magdalena Götz, biologist, Leibniz prize 2007
- Oliver Primavesi, philologist, Leibniz prize 2007
- Detlef Weigel, biologist, Leibniz prize 2007
- Gyburg Radke, philologist, Leibniz prize 2006
- Felix Otto, mathematician, Leibniz prize 2006
- Gerhard Roth (biologist), President of the Studienstiftung since 2004
- Ulrich Beck, sociologist
- Christian Keysers, neuroscientist
- Rolf-Ulrich Kunze, historian
- Ulrike Malmendier, economist
- Detlev Poguntke, mathematician
- Stephan Reimertz, art historian
- Volker Runde, mathematician
- Wolf Singer, neuroscientist
- Ernst-Ludwig von Thadden, economist
- Dirk Kaesler, sociologist
- Ulrike Müßig, legal historian
Business and NGOs
- Andreas von Bechtolsheim, co-founder Sun Microsystems
- Alexander Dibelius, Managing Director Germany, Goldman Sachs
- Frank Mattern, Head of the German Office, McKinsey and Company
- Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG
- Gerd Leipold, Executive Director, Greenpeace International
- Antje Vollmer, politician, until 2005 Vice-President of the German parliament
- Fritz Kuhn, politician, co-chairman of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, the German Green Party, from June 2000 to December 2002
- Steffen Seibert, journalist, current Government Spokesman and Head of the Press and Information Office of Germany
- Annette Fugmann-Heesing, treasury secretary, senator
- Gesine Schwan, professor, SPD-candidate for the office of the federal president, 2004
- Robert Tillmanns, politician
- Karl Schiller, politician and scientist
- Christine Teusch, politician
- Andreas Paulus, judge at the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
- Hans-Jürgen von Bose, professor, composer
- Hans Breder, professor, artist
- Emil Cimiotti, artist
- Moritz Eggert, composer, pianist
- Hans Magnus Enzensberger, writer
- Justus Frantz, pianist
- Anna Gourari, pianist
- Horst Janssen, artist
- Bas Kast, writer
- Heinz Rudolf Kunze, singer and composer
- Michael Kunze, librettist and translator
- Frei Otto, architect
- Matthias Pintscher, composer
- Philipp Tingler, writer, journalist and economist
- Juli Zeh, writer
- Petra Gerster, journalist
- Frank Schirrmacher, journalist
- Ulrike Meinhof, editor, subsequently member of the Red Army Faction (RAF)
- Claus Kleber, journalist, anchor of the "heute-journal"
- Wilfried Köpke, journalist
- Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, Jahresbericht 2010 (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, Bonn, 2011) p.34.
- Homepage of the Studienstiftung: http://www.studienstiftung.de