Germany’s Federal and State Governments have decided to continue the Excellence Initiative funding programme for top-level research after a long political debate on the issue.
The Excellence Initiative was agreed by the federal and state governments in 2005. It is meant to simultaneously support top-flight research and Germany’s higher education system as a whole, including its international competitiveness. The initiative was evaluated by an international commission of experts earlier in 2016. The commission gave the scheme a positive appraisal but stressed that continuing it beyond 2017, when it expires in its present form, would require adequate funding levels. The agreement now reached enables 11 institutions to be funded as ‘Universities of Excellence’ with a total of €533 million (US$593 million) a year over a seven-year period, beginning in 2019.
After some criticism of the system, i.e. that it was not sufficiently dynamic, a compromise was reached whereby the 11 universities of the first phase undergo rigorous evaluation after seven years, raising the possibility that some would be required to drop out of the scheme, thereby allowing the submission of new proposals and the entry of new universities. A minimum of four new universities taking part would be guaranteed, meaning that funding may have to be spread among more than 11 universities.
The heads of governments have approved two further programmes to support smaller universities and universities of applied science and junior academics, providing a total of around €1.5 billion, also on a competitive basis. The programme for junior academics is to run from 2017 to 2032 and has been allocated around €1 billion to secure 1,000 tenure-track professorships. After the 15-year joint funding period, federal support would cease and further funding would be continued by the respective state government.
The outcome of the negotiations has been strongly welcomed by Horst Hippler, president of the Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, which represents the heads of higher education institutions. Hippler maintains that universities are willing to compete for extra funding and they regard the new programmes as an opportunity to become more competitive internationally.
Photo credit: “www.colourbox.com”. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from The Federal Ministry of Education and Research – BMBF.