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Two universities from the east among five winning elite status

Five additional German institutions can now call themselves 'elite universities', among them Humboldt University in Berlin and the University of Dresden, both in what used to be East Germany.

But the University of Karlsruhe was among the institutions that failed to retain their elite status in the second round of the Excellence Initiative.

The initiative was launched by the federal and state governments in 2005, and entered its first round in 2006-07. It aims to promote internationally relevant top-level research and attract junior scientists and scholars from abroad.

The initiative has three budget lines: clusters of excellence; graduate schools (for postgraduate training); and concepts for the future, which describe the strategic development of an institution.

Funding can be awarded in a single line, but a university is only eligible for the title of an 'elite university' if its concept for the future is accepted, in addition to having at least one cluster of excellence and one graduate school.

In the first round, 56 projects were funded at 37 institutions, and for this round, more than 120 proposals have been handed in. In the first round, a total of €1.9 billion (US$2.4 billion) in extra funding was allocated to institutions, and this year’s round offers €2.7 billion in all for the winners.

The elite universities each receive €10 million to €15 million a year up to 2017.

The first round yielded nine elite universities: alongside Karlsruhe, Munich’s Technical and Ludwig Maximilians universities, Free University of Berlin, and the universities of Aachen, Constance, Heidelberg, Freiburg and Göttingen.

For the second round, the federal and state governments agreed on a maximum of 12 institutions in all, five of which should be new. So some of the existing elite universities were destined to lose their title.

The five institutions that have now been newly awarded the title are, in addition to the University of Dresden and Humboldt University Berlin, the Universities of Bremen, Cologne and Tübingen.

Dresden is the first university to have received the title in the Neue Länder, the new eastern states of the federal republic. East Berlin, where Humboldt is located, used to be the capital of the German Democratic Republic, but now belongs to the united city of Berlin, a federal state in its own right.

Out of the winners of the first round, the universities of Karlsruhe, Göttingen and Freiburg lost their elite status in the new competition. Karlsruhe’s missed title came as a surprise, given that it had recently received much praise for its cooperation with extra-university research institutions.

The universities of Bochum and Mainz failed with their proposals for the new round. Tübingen and Mainz are among the institutions that have put forward proposals for the initiative addressing the issue of sustainability.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) and the Wissenschaftsrat (Science Council), the country’s chief research funding and science policy advisory bodies respectively, organise the decision-making process.

Decisions on proposals are taken by the 16 higher education and research ministers of the federal states, the federal minister of education and research (whose vote counts 16-fold) and 39 scientists and scholars, which guarantees academics a majority.
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