Policy: German Excellence Strategy – Analysis Confirms Positive Impact on Research but Little Improvement for Teaching

Report by Stifterverband and Heinz Nixdorf Stiftung offers insights into the impact of flagship national funding programme.

The Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments is a cornerstone of science promotion in Germany. The aim of the strategy is to strengthen Germany’s position as an outstanding research hub in the long term and further improve its international competitiveness by developing the capacity of German universities. Running since 2016 and coordinated by the DFG, the programme offers two funding lines, the Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence.

Based on survey data from the annual Hochschul-Barometer (Higher Education Barometer) from 2011 to 2022, Stifterverband and Heinz Nixdorf Stiftung carried out a detailed analysis of the impact the programme has had on funded universities. The results are now available in a report called ‘Does Excellence Make Universities Happy?’ (Macht Exzellenz zufrieden?).

The report casts a light on the strengths and weaknesses of the Excellence Strategy. While the funding seems to strongly support the international competitiveness in research of the funded universities, little impact can be felt in the area of teaching, where higher numbers of scientific personnel did not necessarily lead to a broader range of courses. The report also notes that funded universities do not feel the programme impacted their overall budgetary position or improve their autonomy and self-determination.

Yet overall, the report concludes that the programme hits its intended target of more top-level research in Germany by improving the reputation of funded universities and supporting their ability to attract talent. Universities of Excellence see themselves in a more favourable competitive position than other universities. Another advantage of the programme is the ability to develop more fruitful international research partnerships.

The full report was published in German and is available for download via the Hochschul-Barometer website.