The Excellence Initiative at RWTH Aachen

  Female and male researcher conducting an experiment Peter Winandy

One of the largest funding programs in recent years in Germany will continue: after a long period of uncertainty about the future configuration of the Excellence Initiative, the rules for the next round have been determined with the adoption of the Federal-State Agreement from June 16, 2016. What was previous called the Excellent Initiative will now be called the Excellence Strategy.




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For the first time there is a longterm agreement for the sustainable financing of universities, including by the federal government. This means the federal government will institutionally co-finane some universities. An agreement was also reached on a science-driven process for decisions regarding funding. The funding volume amounts to 533 million Euros annually – with a 75 percent contribution from the federal government and 25 percent from the states.

In the future the Excellence Strategy will be continued in two funding lines – Excellence Clusters or EXC and Universities of Excellence or EXU – in a multi-step proposal process. First the EXC will be determined. Funding will be focused on them – 385 million Euros per year. At least two clusters must granted in order for an institution to receive institutional funding as a University of Excellence in the future, second funding line. Proposals for EXU can only be composed and submitted, if the Excellence Clusters have been approved.

A total of 45 to 50 Excellence Clusters are to be funded for a maximum of seven years twice. Joint cluster proposals – that is together with other universities – are allowed. Joint Excellence Clusters will be proportionately accredited to each university for the status of University of Excellence. Clusters that have been granted and are ongoing will not receive continuation from the federal government. Instead the universities will participate in the competition with new ideas, whereby they should further develop their previous research focuses.

Eleven Universities of Excellence

The longerm funding of the Universities of Excellence by the federal government does not have a time stamp. However it will be regularly evaluated. There are to be a total of eleven Universities of Excellence. Bridge financing for all the three ongoing funding lines will be ensured from November 2017 to October 2019. This will also be considered completion funding. You can find additional information on the German Research Foundation's website.

Looking ahead towards the competition, it is clear that the university, which can distinguish itself through the best research, will win. RWTH has been able to use the funding from the past ten years to oustandingly prepare itself. This was possible, because its scientists – together with those from Forschungszentrum Jülich – conduct outstanding, worldclass research. RWTH and its partner organizations are equipped with first-class infrastructure. Inspired by many new ideas, RWTH now has the chance to prove itself as an internationally leading research university. "The universities need the competition for best research as much as football needs its championship," emphasises Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg. "We look forward to the next round to once again prove ourselves: RWTH is one of the excellent universities in Germany."

What Has Happened Thus Far

In June 2012, RWTH Aachen entered the second phase of the Excellence Initiative. It is represented in all three funding lines: with the graduate school Aachen Institute for Advanced Study in Computational Engineering Science, AICES, both the Excellence Clusters Integrative Production Technology for High-Wage Countries and Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass, TMFB, and the Institutional Strategy II.

The institutional strategy is titled "RWTH 2020: Meeting Global Challenges. The Integrated, Interdisciplinary, Technical University." It contributes to RWTH's development as one of the best integrated, interdisciplinary, technical universities worldwide. The decision at the time to continue to the Excellence Initiative at RWTH reinforces the Aachen university's leading role in Germany and its international position.


The RWTH Excellence Activities at a Glance: