2006 has been somewhat of a revolutionary year for German higher education. The system where all universities were considered of equal quality and therefore were subjected to equal treatment by the government, experienced quite a stir.

German Minister of Research and Education Annette Schavan announced in October last year that the Ludwig-Maximilian University (Munchen) and the Technical University of Munchen and the University of Karlsruhe became Germany’s first ‘elite universities’. The three institutions are the biggest winners in Germany’s ‘excellence initiative’. This was established to improve the country’s chronically under-funded universities (and its decreasing reputation abroad), by encouraging high level research and competition. The three universities will receive around 120 million euros each in federal and state funds over the next five years.

This week, the finalists for the second round were announced. Being one of the winners is crucial considering that getting designated ‘elite’ will mean enjoying a piece of the 1.9 billion euros pie, made available from 2007 to 2011. This time the result seems less skewed towards technology, and less towards the southern part of Germany than the first round. The finalists include two institutes of higher education in Berlin, the Free University and the Humboldt University. The others are the RWTH Aachen and the universities of Bochum, Freiburg, Gottingen, Heidelberg and Constance.

The final decision on which of these eight will be designated ‘elite’ will be made in October.

Some interesting views from the German academic community on the excellence initiative can be heard in this radio interview (from NPR; 4:26 in english):

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