The aim of the Excellence Strategy is to strengthen Germany’s position as an outstanding research hub in the long term and further improve its international competitiveness. It continues the development of German universities successfully begun with the Excellence Initiative by supporting research of the highest standard, enhancing research profiles, and facilitating cooperation in the research system.
An interactive map of all currently funded Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence/University Excellence Consortia can be found via the link below.
Information on the second competition phase
At its meetings on 29 – 30 November 2021 and 30 November 2022 – 1 December 20022, the Committee of Experts made key decisions on the second competition phase.
- Interner LinkInformation for Researchers: Call for (Draft) Proposals for Clusters of Excellence on the second competition phase
- Interner Link mit AnkerThe current status of the timetable can be found under "Schedule for the Excellence Strategy“.
- Interner Link mit AnkerAll further information on the decisions of the Committee of Experts, e.g. regarding the review modalities in the second competition phase, can be found in the current issue of „Information for Researchers No. 113 | 15 December 2021 - Beschlüsse des Expertengremiums zur Exzellenzstrategie“ (in German only).
Based on the administrative agreement reached by the federal and state governments on 16 June 2016 and updated on 4 November 2022, the DFG and the German Council of Science and Humanities are implementing the Excellence Strategy in two funding lines:
Clusters of Excellence (EXC)
The Clusters of Excellence funding line is designed to support project-based funding in internationally competitive fields of research at universities or university consortia. The DFG is responsible for developing and implementing this funding line and for publishing calls for proposals every 7 years. Proposals are reviewed and decided on in an academically driven, competitive process. New initiatives go through a draft proposal and full proposal phase. In the first funding period (1 January 2019 to 31 December 2025) a total of 57 Clusters are being funded with an annual budget of 385 Mio. Euro. In the second funding period (1 January 2026 to 31 December 2032) up to 70 Clusters of Excellence can be funded with an annual budget of 539 Mio. Euro.
Universities of Excellence (EXU)
The Universities of Excellence funding line serves to strengthen universities as individual institutions or as university consortia in the long term and further develop their leading international role based on successful Clusters of Excellence. The German Council of Science and Humanities is responsible for developing and implementing this funding line. In the first funding period (2019 to 2026) ten Universities of Excellence and one University Consortium of Excellence are being funded with 148 Mio Euro annually. In the second funding period (2027 to 2033) up to four additional Universities or University Consortia of Excellence may receive funding.
The next call for draft proposals for the second competition phase is expected to be issued in 2024.
Additional Programme Information
Schedule for the Excellence Strategy
On 29 – 30 November 2021, the Committee of Experts adopted an initial schedule for the second competition phase of the Excellence Strategy.
Clusters of Excellence funding line:
- The second competition phase starts with the Interner Linkcall for EXC draft proposals on 15 December 2022. We ask that all new initiatives submit a letter of intent by 1 February 2023. For existing Clusters of Excellence planning a renewal proposal, it will, contrary to our previously communicated plans, not be necessary to submit letters of intent at such an early stage.
- The deadline for the submission of draft proposals for new Clusters of Excellence is 31 May 2023. Renewal proposals do not submit draft proposals. The review of the draft proposals will take place approximately between the end of August and mid-November 2023 and the final decision on the draft proposals for new Clusters of Excellence will be made on 1 February 2024. Only those initiatives invited by the Committee of Experts are eligible to submit a proposal. In advance of the proposal submission, we request an update on the letters of intent by 15 April 2024, so as to be able to incorporate any interim changes in the review schedule.
- Clusters of Excellence planning a renewal proposal are requested to submit a letter of intent by 29 January 2024.
- The submission deadline for all EXC proposals is 22 August 2024, with review of proposals scheduled from approximately early October 2024 to mid-February 2025. The funding decision on the future Clusters of Excellence will be made on 22 May 2025.
- The DFG guidelines serve as baseline standards for all reviews in the context of the Clusters of Excellence funding line.
Universities of Excellence funding line:
- The new call for proposals under the Universities of Excellence funding line is expected to start at the end of March 2024. Based on the decisions regarding the Clusters of Excellence in May 2025, new proposals will have to be submitted by mid-November the same year. From April to June 2026, site visits will take place in order to enable the Excellence Commission to arrive at decisions on four new projects in the programme line at the end of September 2026.
- The evaluation of the ten funded Universities of Excellence and the Excellence Network will begin with the submission of self-evaluation reports in August 2025. Site visits will take place from October to December the same year; in March 2026, the Committee of Experts will assess the results of the individual evaluations and submit their recommendation to the Excellence Commission accordingly.
Further information on the Excellence Universities funding line can be found on the German Externer LinkCouncil of Science and Humanities website.
Decisions on draft proposals and full proposals in the Excellence Strategy are made by the Committee of Experts and the Excellence Commission, respectively.
The Committee of Experts consists of 39 members with proven research track records who represent the entire range of academic disciplines. In addition, they have extensive experience in international settings, in university management, in teaching or in the private sector.
The Chair of the German Council of Science and Humanities and the President of the DFG are non-voting members of the committee and preside over it.
The tasks of the Committee of Experts include defining the funding criteria, evaluating the draft and full proposals on the basis of peer reviews, making funding recommendations to the Excellence Commission, deciding on the draft proposals that qualify for submission of a full proposal, and assessing the results of the evaluation of the Universities of Excellence.
The Excellence Commission consists of the Committee of Experts and the government ministers responsible for research at the federal and state levels. The Excellence Commission decides on the funding of Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence on the basis of the recommendations made by the Committee of Experts..
History of the funding line
On 27 and 28 September 2017 the Committee of Experts for the Excellence Strategy made its initial decisions in the Excellence Strategy. It chose Link auf PDF-Datei88 Initiatives were invited to submit a full proposal in the Clusters of Excellence funding line. They were selected from 195 draft proposals, which were submitted to the DFG by 63 universities. The draft proposals were reviewed by international panels on the basis of research quality criteria.
All 88 invited full proposals, submitted by 41 universities, were received by the DFG by the 21 February 2018 deadline. Of these proposals, 26 were submitted jointly by at least two universities, including 3 by three universities. Just under half of the projects built on Clusters of Excellence or Graduate Schools that were funded during the previous round of Germany’s Excellence Initiative. The Clusters of Excellence and Graduate Schools that were funded under the Excellence Initiative but not continued under the Excellence Strategy received completion funding through the end of October 2019.
The final decision on Clusters of Excellence in the Excellence Strategy was taken on 27 September 2018. The Excellence Commission, consisting of the international Committee of Experts and the federal and state government ministers for research, selected Link auf PDF-Datei57 Clusters of Excellence out of 88 project proposals. These will be funded for the next seven years.
In the Universities of Excellence funding line, 26 letters of intent were received by the German Council of Science and Humanities by the 21 February 2018 deadline. Following the decisions in the Clusters of Excellence funding line, 19 universities/university consortia were eligible to compete for Universities of Excellence. All 19 proposals, 17 from individual universities and two from university consortia, were submitted by the 10 December 2018 deadline. The Excellence Commission approved funding for Link auf PDF-Datei10 Universities of Excellence and one University Excellence Consortium on 19 July 2019.
Externer LinkInteractive Map of Approved Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence/University Excellence Consortia
Additional facts and figures can be found in the articles/documents listed under Information Letters and Press Releases.
Publications regarding the Funding Line Clusters of Excellence
The DFG Infobrief "From Zero to Full Capacity? Personnel Expansion in Clusters of Excellence" summarises the socio-demographic data of the participating researchers collected as part of the DFG's annual monitoring and provides an overall view of the composition of the Clusters of Excellence according to career stage, gender, subject area as well as the internationality of the participating researchers.
- Interner LinkDFG Infobrief "From Zero to Full Capacity? Personnel Expansion in Clusters of Excellence“
The report “Exzellenzstrategie des Bundes und der Länder – Statistische Übersichten zu den Förderentscheidungen zu Exzellenzclustern (September 2018)” (Excellence Strategy of the Federal and State Governments – Statistical Overview of Funding Decisions on Clusters of Excellence) describes the draft and full proposal phase up to and including the funding decisions in the first competition round for the funding of new Clusters of Excellence. In addition to presenting key figures on the distribution of projects by region and discipline, the report examines topics such as the interdisciplinary nature of the Clusters and the composition of the review panels.
The infas Institute for Applied Social Sciences conducted an online survey of reviewers involved in the Excellence Strategy on behalf of the DFG to evaluate the programme’s review process. Two-thirds of reviewers responded to the survey, the results of which are presented in the report linked below.
On 29 and 30 April 2021, the DFG Head Office invited members of the Clusters of Excellence from the first funding round, representatives of the universities, as well as members of the Committee of Experts and the Joint Science Conference to a joint discussion forum on the framework conditions for excellent research in Germany. The event offered the opportunity to exchange different perspectives on the funding programme, from the proposal process to the day-to-day work of the Clusters. The article linked below provides further insights.
The following contact persons are available at the head office of the DFG:
For general programme information
- Dr. Christine Petry
Tel.: + 49 (0)228/885-2355
E-Mail: Link auf E-Mailexzellenzcluster@dfg.de
For the competition phase in the Clusters of Excellence funding line
- Dr. Anselm Fremmer
Tel.: + 49 (0)228/885-2397
Email: Link auf E-Mailexzellenzcluster@dfg.de
- Dr. Sebastian Granderath
Tel.: + 49 (0)228/885-2273
E-Mail: Link auf E-Mailexzellenzcluster@dfg.de
- Dr. Florian Bast
Tel.: + 49 (0)228/885-2205
Email: Link auf E-Mailexzellenzcluster@dfg.de
- Dr. Daniel Holder
Tel.: + 49 (0)228/885-3336
Email: Link auf E-Mailexzellenzcluster@dfg.de
Contact persons for individual Clusters of Excellence and for administrative matters
Use of Funds for
- Stephan Nouera
Tel: +49 (228) 885-3081
Link auf E-Mailstephan.firstname.lastname@example.org
Brandenburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen, Hamburg, Sachsen
- Janin Winkel
Tel: +49 (228) 885-3246
Link auf E-Mailjanin.email@example.com
- Berthold Hühnerbach
Tel: +49 (228) 885-2339
Link auf E-Mailberthold.firstname.lastname@example.org
Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland
- Thomas Lüdtke-Kenn
Tel: +49 (228) 885-2712
Link auf E-Mailthomas.email@example.com
- Cornelia Niebus
Tel: +49 (228) 885-2016
Link auf E-Mailcornelia.firstname.lastname@example.org
The following contact persons are available at the head office of the German Council of Science and Humanities:
For general programme information and for the Universities of Excellence funding line
- Dr. Inka Spang-Grau
Tel.: + 49 (0)221/3776-281
Email: Link auf E-Mailspangemail@example.com
- Externer LinkVideo: Information for Reviewers for new Clusters of Excellence
- Link auf PDF-DateiSlides from the DFG’s Orientation Event Regarding the Start of the Second Competition Phase for Clusters of Excellence (in German only)
- Interner LinkInformation Letters and Press Releases
- Interner LinkExcellence Initiative (2005-2017/2019)
- Interner LinkCall for Proposals in the Clusters of Excellence Funding Line on the first competition phase
- Externer LinkCall for Proposals in the Universities of Excellence Funding Line (WR) (in German only)
- Externer LinkInformation on the Excellence Strategy from the German Council of Science and Humanities
- Externer LinkInformation on the Excellence Strategy from the Joint Science Conference (GWK) (in German only)
- Externer LinkAdministrative Agreement from 4 November 2022 (in German only)
- Externer LinkAdministrative Agreement from 16 June 2016 (in German only)
Information on the Excellence Strategy will be updated regularly on this site during the course of the programme. For direct access, use our quick link at