What is the Excellence Strategy?
Our answers to the most important questions concerning the excellence strategy.
What is the Excellence Strategy?
The Excellence Strategy of the Federal and State Governments, “ExStra” for short, is a funding competition for top-level university research. ExStra aims to strengthen Germany’s scientific standing and improve its international competitiveness. The program is designed to support higher education institutions as they pursue top-level scientific research and to enhance research profiles and scientific cooperation.
With a funding volume of €533 million per annum, the Excellence Strategy is a heavyweight among funding programs and an outstanding opportunity for universities to receive financial support and gain prestige. Many will remember the forerunner of the Excellence Strategy: the Excellence Initiative. With only a few differences, the Excellence Strategy is effectively a continuation of that program.
The competition consists of 2 phases, known as “funding lines.” In September 2018, the German Research Foundation (DFG) launched a process to fund the “clusters of excellence”. Universities granted 2 or more clusters of excellence in the first phase of the competition were eligible to submit proposals in December to become Universities of Excellence. Aside from Universität Hamburg, 17 other universities and 2 university consortia qualified.
On 19 July 2019, the decision reached in the second funding line, i.e., the naming of Universities of Excellence, was announced. Owing to its success in the first and second lines of funding, Universität Hamburg will be receiving €235 million in funding by 2026 to advance its clusters and the institution as a whole.
Who decides which clusters are funded and which universities are granted the status of a University of Excellence?
The German Research Foundation (DFG) developed and implemented the first funding line, “Clusters of Excellence”. It selected the clusters based on a range of funding criteria (PDF). The second funding line, “Universities of Excellence”, was implemented by the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat, WR). This process also involved various funding criteria (PDF).
The WR has revealed that, during the on-site visit, the reviewers focused especially on “the coherence of the institutions’ overall profile against the backdrop of the respective institution’s or consortium’s starting conditions and on their academic performance” as well as on “the quality of planning and preliminary work based on the status quo and the overall strategy’s potential.”
Based on these assessments, a committee of 39 academics, the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek (with 16 votes), and the Ministers of Science of the 16 Federal States (each with 1 vote), made their decision on 19 July 2019.
What are clusters of excellence?
Clusters of excellence are interdisciplinary research collaborations in which scholars work together in internationally competitive fields. A cluster of excellence includes up to 3 spokespersons, numerous members of the applying universities, and researchers from other universities or non-university research institutions. If a university is granted a cluster of excellence, it will receive funding of up to €10 million per year over 7 years.
In September 2018, it was announced that Universität Hamburg would receive funding for 4 clusters of excellence from 2019. The additional funds from the Excellence Strategy will enable the University to conduct intensive research on 4 major issues until 2025.
What does it mean to be a University of Excellence?
The WR describes the funding offered to Universities of Excellence as the “permanent strengthening of universities as individual institutions or within university consortia” and as the “development of their international standing in research on the basis of successful clusters of excellence.” Each University of Excellence initially receives an annual grant of up to €15 million on top of its existing budget. This scheme is set to continue until 2026.
Afterwards, all Universities of Excellence will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the grant will be extended for 7 more years. In their proposals, the universities were required to provide specific details of how the funding would be spent. The proposal submitted by Universität Hamburg named 24 projects, which were chosen strategically to ensure that multiple areas would benefit.
What is the “Flagship University” concept?
John Aubrey Douglass defines “New Flagship Universities” as “comprehensive, research-intensive, public universities funded largely by national governments, located in urban areas, and generally recognized as central institutions within society. Most are transitioning to a broader understanding of their roles in the socioeconomic development of their countries.” (Douglass 2016: p. 154) Over the past few years, Universität Hamburg passed various stages of development to reach its current status.
It has continually improved its international ranking, tirelessly pursued its greater mission, and diligently fulfilled its central role within the Hamburg Metropolitan Region and the national higher-education system. Thanks to its networking efforts, it has established close partnerships with academic and non-academic partners in the region. Douglass’ concept has been adapted to create the Hamburg model of the “Flagship University.”
What is behind the University’s guiding principle, “Innovating and cooperating for a sustainable future?”
Universität Hamburg is guided by its comprehensive approach to sustainability, which strives to give present and future generations the opportunity to live their lives as they see fit. A capacity for innovation is crucial to the development of a sustainable future. Universität Hamburg has that capacity: it can identify the value of external knowledge, new information and disruptive technologies and apply that knowledge internally to advance existing skills and implement new initiatives.
Sustainability also means considering all the challenges and opportunities arising from digitalization. Collaborations are another significant component. Universität Hamburg maintains partnerships with university consortia, non-university research institutions, and non-academic organizations.
Can I apply for ExStra funding?
The funds acquired within the scope of the Excellence Strategy are strictly allocated to the 24 projects in the 5 performance areas.
How does the status of a University of Excellence benefit the students?
The Excellence status has many advantages for our students. It allows the University to improve its Studium generale and develop 2 new degree programs, the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and the Master of Arts in Innovation, Cooperation and Transfer. Students will gain additional funding opportunities, such as scholarships for students going abroad and support for student research groups. There are also plans for a fast-track program.
How does the status of a University of Excellence benefit the university administration?
The main purpose of the Excellence Strategy is to promote research. But ExStra funding also supports the structures that underpin the University’s research.
What are core research areas? Which ones does Universität Hamburg have?
The University’s core research areas are clusters of major research projects within specific fields. They exhibit a consistently high quality of research over an extended period, strong collaborative endeavors, highly interdisciplinary research, and the reliable acquisition of funding for major research alliances. The core research areas are at the center of all research that takes place at Universität Hamburg.
- Climate, Earth and Environment
- Photon and Nanosciences
- Manuscript Cultures
- Particle, Astro- and Mathematical Physics
- Infection Research
What are emerging fields? Which ones does Universität Hamburg have?
Emerging fields are fields of research that have the potential to develop into core research areas of the University. They usually consist of collaborative projects, such as collaborative research centers (CRCs), research units or research training groups. Most emerging fields are interdisciplinary and well positioned to acquire external funding.
- Health Economics
- Neurosciences and Cognitive Systems
- Law in Global Contexts
- Early Modern World
- Grounds, Causes, Reasons
What are profile initiatives? Which ones does Universität Hamburg have?
Profile initiatives are the foundation of new research alliances. They can develop into emerging fields. Most profile initiatives receive some form of collaborative funding (e.g., through state research funding programs or Federal Ministry of Education and Research clusters). Their developmental processes are usually highly flexible and allow for involvement of researchers from various disciplines.
- Labor and Social Change
- Violence and Security
- Marketing and Communication
- Modeling Nature
- Literacy in Diversity Settings / Linguistic Diversity
- Mechanisms of Change
- Health Services Research
- Thought and Religions