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Excellence Strategy

After the Excellence Initiative (2005-2017), with which the Federal Government and the Länder initiated a dynamic strengthening of the universities, what has been achieved will be continued and further developed with the Excellence Strategy adopted by the Federal Government and the Länder in 2016. The aim is to promote scientific excellence, develop profiles and strengthen cooperation in the science system.

Timetable for the 2nd competition round

At its most recent meeting on 29/30 November 2021, the expert panel agreed on a timetable for the two funding lines, Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence, for the 2nd competition round. The following information is published subject to the proviso that it will be possible for the GWK to decide on the further development of the Excellence Strategy programme in autumn 2022.

Funding line for Clusters of Excellence

The second competition phase will start with the call for EXC outlines; currently, the DFG expects the deadline to be 15.12.2022. In order to obtain an overview of the number and subject distribution of research projects and thus the required subject expertise for new and continuation proposals, the DFG asks all applicants to submit a general letter of intent by 1 February 2023. The deadline for submission of outline proposals for new proposals is 31 May 2023. The review of the outline proposals will take place approximately between the end of August and mid-November 2023 and the decision on the proposal submission will be made on 1 February 2024. Proposals for continuation do not go through the outline phase.

In the run-up to the proposal phase, the DFG requests an update of the letters of intent in order to integrate any changes that may have occurred in the meantime into the review planning. The deadline in this regard is 29.01.2024 for continuation proposals and 15.04.2024 for new proposals. The submission deadline for all EXC proposals is 22.08.2024. The review of proposals is planned for the period from approximately the beginning of October 2024 to mid-February 2025. The funding decision on the future clusters of excellence will be made on 22.05.2025. More information can be found on the DFG website.

Funding line for universities of excellence

The new call for proposals in the Excellence Universities funding line is expected to start at the end of March 2024. Based on the decisions on the clusters of excellence in May 2025, the new proposals are expected to be submitted by mid-November of the same year. The site visits will take place from April to June 2026, with a view to the Excellence Commission making decisions on the new inclusion of up to four new funding cases in the programme line at the end of September 2026.

The evaluation of the ten funded universities of excellence and the excellence network is expected to begin in August 2025 with the submission of self-reports. The site visits will take place from October to December of the same year; in March 2026, the expert panel will assess the results of the individual evaluations.

About the Excellence Strategy funding programme

The Excellence Strategy programme is based on the Administrative Agreement (Verwaltungsvereinbarung) adopted on 19th October 2016 by the Federal Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of the States pursuant to Article 91b (1) of German Basic Law (Grundgesetz), the new federal/state initiative “Exzellenzstrategie” – zur Förderung von Spitzenforschung an Universitäten (Excellence Strategy – Promoting top-level research at universities).

The Excellence Strategy programme is carried out by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [DFG] in collaboration with the German Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat, WR). It consists of two funding lines:

1 - Clusters of Excellence provides project-based funding for internationally competitive areas of research at universities and university consortia. The latest funding decisions in the Clusters of Excellence funding line were taken in September 2018. Further information is available on the DFG website.

2 - Universities of Excellence is aimed at institutionally strengthening universities and university consortia and further developing their international leading role in research on the basis of successful Clusters of Excellence. The latest decisions in the Universities of Excellence funding line were taken in July 2019. The WR is responsible for the development and implementation of the Universities of Excellence funding line procedure as well as for their review, which takes place septennially.

A Committee of Experts was set up to design the funding programme. It is made up of 39 members in total. All of them have a proven track record in research in various research fields as well as many years of international experience from the areas of university management, teaching or business. The members were jointly proposed by the DFG Senate and the Scientific Commission of the WR and appointed by the Joint Science Conference (GWK). A list of current members is available at the GWK website.

The Excellence Commission is responsible for the decision-making regarding proposals in both funding lines. It is made up of the research members of the Committee of Experts as well as the federal and state science and research ministers.

Information on the Excellence Initiative (2005-2017) can be found here.