Excellence Initiative Showcases the Top Universities in Germany

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs


In the US it is pretty clear which universities rank the highest for their academic standards.  You have Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc, but if you’re looking to attend a university in Germany, do you know that the German equivalents to those are?  It may not be as easy to tell, and cost is definitely not a good factor to base it on.  That’s because German universities are tax-funded public schools and overall the academic standards are fairly high across the board.

While it is great that German universities have high standards, how do you decide which ones are the best?  The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has, over the years, teamed up with the German Research Foundation (DFG) to form the Excellence Initiative with the hopes of clearing up that question every year.  There are three different levels, covering different academic criteria, that receive substantial funding depending on where they fall.

The first set of funding covers about 40 research schools focusing on science and PhD programs, each receiving one million euros every year.  After that you have the next tier of about 30 schools that are referred to the Clusters of Excellence and receive funding of 6.5 million euros each to connect with research institutes and businesses.

However the best of the best get placed in the Universities of Excellence funding track, which is made up of only 11 schools, and will receive top funding to promote programs of high-level research and “future concepts”.  The schools that make it to the top 11 often receive quite a bit of international recognition and can be considered as the Ivy League universities in Germany.

So which universities are currently among the top 11?

  1. RWTH Aachen
  2. Freie Universität Berlin
  3. HU Berlin
  4. Universität Bremen
  5. TU Dresden
  6. Heidelberg
  7. Universität zu Köln
  8. University of Constance
  9. LMU Munich
  10. TU Munich
  11. University of Tübingen


Sources: Excellence Initiative, Young Germany
Photo: RWTH Aachen

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Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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