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Excellence Strategy

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.

Map: Universities of Excellence and Clusters of Excellence

An interactive map of all approved Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence/University Excellence Consortia can be found via the link below.

Externer LinkInteractive map

Funding Lines

Based on the administrative agreement reached by the federal and state governments on 16 June 2016, 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. Proposals are reviewed and decided on in an academically driven, competitive process. New initiatives go through a draft proposal and full proposal phase. Funding of approximately €385 million is available annually for Clusters of Excellence. The Excellence Commission decided on funding for 57 Clusters of Excellence on 27 September 2018. Funding commenced on 1 January 2019.

The call for draft proposals for the second competition phase is expected to be issued in late 2022.

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. A total of approximately €148 million will be available annually. Final decisions were made by the Excellence Commission on 19 July 2019, at which time ten universities and one university consortium were selected. Funding commenced on 1 November 2019.

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

Excellence Strategy - Information on the second competition phase
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On 29 – 30 November 2021, the Committee of Experts adopted an initial schedule for the second competition phase of the Excellence Strategy. The details are published subject to the proviso that it will be possible for the GWK to decide on the further development of the programme in autumn 2022.

Clusters of Excellence funding line:

  • The second competition phase will start with the call for EXC outlines; we currently expect this to be issued on 15.12.2022. In order to obtain an overview of the amount and distribution of research subjects and therefore the required subject expertise for new and renewal proposals, we ask all applicants to submit a general letter of intent by 01.02.2023. 
  • The deadline for the submission of drafts for new proposals is 31.05.2023. 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 proposals will be made on 01.02.2024. Renewal proposals do not submit drafts.
  • In advance of the proposal submission phase, we request an update on the letters of intent so as to be able to incorporate any interim changes in the review schedule. The deadline here is 29.01.2024 for renewal proposals and 15.04.2024 for new proposals.
  • The submission deadline for all EXC proposals is 22.08.2024, 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 22.05.2025.

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 up to 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.

We will provide further information along with all necessary forms and samples in connection with the call for proposals.

Further information on the Excellence Universities funding line can be found on the German Externer LinkCouncil of Science and Humanities website.

Decision-Making Bodies

Decisions on draft proposals and full proposals in the Excellence Strategy are made by the Committee of Experts and the Excellence Commission.

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 conditions, 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.

Programme History

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 projects to proceed to the full proposal stage in the Clusters of Excellence funding line. The selection was made from 195 draft proposals, which were submitted to the DFG by 63 universities. The draft proposals were then reviewed by international panels on the basis of research quality criteria.

All 88 invited full proposals were received by the DFG by the 21 February 2018 deadline. They were submitted by 41 universities. Of these proposals, 26 were submitted jointly by at least two universities, including 3 by three universities. Just under half of the projects build 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.

A total of 26 letters of intent to submit a proposal in the Universities of Excellence funding line 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, made in September 2018, 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.

Additional facts and figures can be found in the articles/documents listed under Information Letters and Press Releases.

Publications

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.

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.

Contact

The following contact persons are available at the head office of the DFG:

For general programme information

For the Clusters of Excellence funding line

Contact persons for individual Clusters of Excellence and for administrative matters

Use of Funds for

Nordrhein-Westfalen

Brandenburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen, Hamburg, Sachsen

Bayern, Hessen

Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland

Berlin, Niedersachsen

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

Note

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