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Press Release No. 46 | 10 September 2009
Funding as an Impetus for Competition and Profile Enhancement

DFG Presents 2009 Funding Ranking: German Research Has Good International Standing / HEIs and Research Regions Use Third Party Funding for Thematic Priorities

The higher education institutions (HEIs) in Germany are increasingly well prepared for the national and international competition in science and research. In recent years, many of them have enhanced their research profiles and set clear thematic priorities. This is the principal finding of the latest DFG Funding Ranking, presented by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) on 10 September in Berlin. Based on a broad data basis and detailed analyses, the 200 page report reveals the amount of funding acquired by German HEIs from different sources in the last few years and provides insight into the uses to which it was put. For the first time, the report also includes detailed statistics on non-university research institutions.

The 2009 funding ranking is the fifth ranking study by the DFG. The scope of the report has once again been significantly expanded compared to previous editions. The primary focus is still on DFG awards, which currently provide over two billion euros in research funding every year. Moreover, funding data from numerous federal ministries, other funding organisations, the EU, and the European Research Council, established in 2007 and included here for the first time, were also taken into account. The new DFG ranking thereby incorporates almost 90 percent of all third party funding received.

"The new DFG ranking proves that HEIs have recognised the opportunities opened to them by more intensive competition. And funding from the DFG and other sources is a driving force behind this competition," emphasised DFG President Matthias Kleiner. The report shows that funding, competition and profile enhancement are interrelated in a number of ways: HEIs increasingly use the third party funding they acquire to focus their funding profiles. The profiles in turn improve their chances of success in the competition for third party funding.

The successes owed to highly focused profiles are evident on many levels. For instance, the HEIs and other research institutions in Germany attracted more funding than any other nation in the EU's Sixth Framework Programme. A total of 3.024 million euros were allocated to German institutions, corresponding to 18 percent of the entire funding volume provided by the Sixth Framework Programme.

The intensive competition is also apparent from the ranking list of HEIs with the highest funding. Altogether, the 20 German HEIs with the highest funding from 2005 to 2007 acquired more than 60 percent of all DFG funds, and the top 40 accounted for an 88 percent share of the total. The North Rhine-Westphalia Technical University of Aachen (RWTH) is currently at the top of the ranking list. It received a total of 257 million euros from the DFG, thereby replacing the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU). The LMU received 249 million euros in third party funding from the DFG, putting it in second place. They are followed by the University of Heidelberg (215.4 million euros), the Technical University of Munich (200.4 million euros) and the Free University of Berlin (FU) (194.4 million euros). Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Erlangen-Nuremberg, Göttingen and the Humboldt University of Berlin complete the group of the ten HEIs with the highest funding.

Most of the HEIs in the top ranking group were also very successful in Germany's Excellence Initiative, which has been running since 2006 and was incorporated for the first time in the 2009 ranking. Due to the Excellence Initiative several HEIs were able to significantly improve their ranking position. The FU Berlin, for example, climbed from tenth place in 2006 to fifth place in 2009, the University of Freiburg moved up from eleventh place to sixth place, and Göttingen went from twelfth to ninth place. The largest leap was taken by the University of Konstanz - from position 34 to position 16. However, some HEIs that were less successful in the Excellence Initiative also managed to gain ground. The University of Bielefeld, for example, advanced from position 38 to position 28 with an even sharper focus on the humanities and social sciences.

"In addition to the Excellence Initiative, other sources of third party funding are still of great importance for competition and for profile enhancement at the HEIs," said DFG President Kleiner. "And both elements are evident not only at the larger HEIs, many smaller HEIs are also successfully setting priorities in particular research fields, which has put them among the leading institutions in those areas."

Based on detailed subject-specific analyses, the DFG report presents many examples of how smaller HEIs were able to successfully enhance their profiles. The University of Mannheim, for instance, places a distinct emphasis on the social and behavioural sciences and received the most awards in that area. The University of Hohenheim and the Veterinary College of Hanover have continued to enhance their profiles in the areas of veterinary medicine and agriculture and forestry, the University of Saarbrücken in information technology as well as systems and electronic engineering, and the TU Ilmenau in the field of micro and nano systems. Further examples include the University of Bayreuth, with its focus on non-European languages and cultures as well as social and cultural anthropology, and the Bauhaus University of Weimar, which is one of the HEIs with the highest DFG funding in the area of construction and architecture.

The ranking also provides information about awards in the major scientific disciplines. In the humanities and social sciences, the top three places were occupied by the FU and HU Berlin and the University of Münster; in the life sciences it was the LMU Munich, and the universities of Heidelberg and Freiburg. In the natural sciences, the LMU and the universities of Bonn and Hamburg occupied positions one to three, and in the engineering sciences it was the technical universities of Aachen, Darmstadt and Karlsruhe. Within these scientific disciplines, the report also undertakes detailed analyses of individual subjects.

In addition to these principal indicators, the DFG's ranking also presents a whole range of further findings, including, for example, the regional distribution of funding. In this category, the regions of Munich and Berlin proved very strong in terms of funding awards. They received just over and just under 520 million euros, also due to the highly active non-university research institutions in those areas. Other strong research regions include the ABC region (Aachen-Bonn-Cologne), which together with the Jülich Research Centre received over 550 million euros, as well as Rhine-Neckar, Frankfurt-Rhine-Main, Rhine-Ruhr, and Hanover-Braunschweig-Göttingen. "The cross-linking of science is steadily increasing, and regional research networks are growing in importance," commented DFG President Kleiner.

The HEIs with the most international appeal were the HU and FU Berlin and the LMU Munich, which hosted the greatest number of foreign scientists and academics funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service.

For the first time, the ranking presented figures for the participation of women scientists in the competition for funding. "We hope in this way to create more transparency in the important issue of equal opportunities in science," said the DFG President. The report showed that women represented 16 percent of the more than 18,000 DFG funding recipients at higher education institutions, with major differences between locations and scientific disciplines.

These and many other findings make the DFG Funding Ranking 2009 the most comprehensive overview and the most detailed analysis to date of the distribution of third party funding and of research priorities at German HEIs, thereby distinguishing it from many other rankings. All of the data originates directly from the funding institutions, and in no case were the scientists or the administrative staff working at the research institutions involved in data collection. The response to previous rankings has already shown the level of interest which science, politics and the public have in well-grounded information. This information should be further enhanced, for example, by means of funding reports on individual institutions, regions or funding programmes.

Further Information

The DFG's Funding Ranking 2009 and other material, currently in German only, can be viewed online at:

The English version will be available in late 2009.

Additional information on the Funding Ranking is available at the DFG Head Office from:

  • Dr. Jürgen Güdler, Director,
    Information Management
    Tel.: +49 228 885-2649,
  • Daniel Bovelet, Project Manager,
    "Funding Ranking",
    Information Management
    Tel.: +49 228 885-2589,

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Funding Ranking 2009
Institutions - Regions - Networks
Wiley-VCH Weinheim 2009, 208 pages
ISBN: 978-3-527-32746-1

Editors can request a free review copy of the report from the DFG Press and Public Relations Office, Kennedyallee 40, 53175 Bonn, Germany. Contact:

  • Michael Hönscheid,
    Tel.: +49 228 885-2109,