Strengthening Top-Level University Research
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The Excellence Initiative aims to promote top-level research and to improve the quality of German universities and research institutions in general, thus enhancing Germany's appeal as a research location, making it more internationally competitive, and focussing attention on the outstanding achievements of German universities and the German scientific community. The DFG is jointly responsible for running the initiative together with the German Council of Science and Humanities (which is primarily responsible for the institutional strategy funding line).
The Excellence Initiative has three lines of funding:
graduate schools to promote early career researchers
clusters of excellence to promote top-level research
institutional strategies to promote top-level university research
A total of €1.9 billion was awarded during the programme's initial five-year phase; these funds will be available through October 2012. In June 2009 the German federal and state governments decided to continue the Excellence Initiative for a second programme phase, providing additional funding of €2.7 billion through 2017. A call for proposals for this second phase was announced in March 2010. Funding decisions will be made in June 2012.
During the first programme phase funding was awarded for 39 graduate schools, 37 clusters of excellence and 9 institutional strategies. To be eligible for the third line of funding (institutional strategies), an institution must have been approved for at least one cluster of excellence and at least one graduate school. The exact funding terms are based on criteria set forth by the federal and state governments.
Graduate schools play a key role not only in developing internationally competitive centres of top-level research and scientific excellence in Germany but also in increasing their recognition and prestige. They serve as an instrument of quality assurance in promoting young researchers and are based on the principle of training outstanding doctoral researchers within an excellent research environment. Graduate schools thus offer ideal conditions for doctoral researchers within a broad scientific area and, as integrative institutions with international visibility, they encourage doctoral researchers to identify with their universities.
Clusters of Excellence
Clusters of excellence enable German university locations to establish internationally visible, competitive research and training facilities, thereby enhancing scientific networking and cooperation among the participating institutions. Clusters of excellence should form an important part of a university’s strategic and thematic planning, significantly raise its profile, and require prioritisation. They should also create excellent training and career conditions for early career researchers. In conjunction with the other two lines of funding, i.e. graduate schools and institutional strategies to promote top-level university research, clusters of excellence will help to increase Germany’s appeal as a research location in the long term and improve its international competitiveness.
The Excellence Initiative provides funding for institutional strategies that are aimed at developing top-level university research in Germany and increasing its competitiveness in the international arena. Funding covers all measures that allow universities to develop and expand their areas of international excellence over the long term and to establish themselves as leading institutions in international competition. This will make a significant contribution to strengthening science and research in Germany and increasing the visibility of current research excellence.