A Tradition of Excellence

Bonn is Germany’s Preeminent University of Excellence

We have been one of eleven German Universities of Excellence since the summer of 2019. And we are the only German university in the Excellence Contest conducted by the federal government and German states (as part of their Excellence Strategy—ExStra) to receive funding for six Clusters of Excellence. This makes us the most successful University of Excellence in their Excellence Strategy. Find out more about the planning for our continuing future as a University of Excellence.

News from the Excellence Strategy
Navigation software supports kidney research

Many kidney diseases are manifested by protein in the urine. However, until now it was not possible to determine whether the protein excretion is caused by only a few, but severely damaged, or by many moderately damaged of the millions of small kidney filters, known as glomeruli. Researchers at the University Hospital Bonn, in cooperation with mathematicians from the University of Bonn, have developed a new computer method to clarify this question experimentally. The results of their work have now been published as an article in press in the leading kidney research journal "Kidney International".

Research Studying Research

In what ways do evaluation and reward systems influence the conduct and results of research studies? This is the question addressed by Dr. Oliver Braganza of the University of Bonn and University Hospital Bonn, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Utrecht, the University of Duisburg-Essen and colleagues from the University of Bonn. Titled “The cultural evolution of scientific practice—from simulation to experimentation,” the project is to receive around 1.8 million euros in funding from the Volkswagen Foundation over the next four years.

Don Zagier Awarded Germany’s Biggest Mathematics Prize

The Carl Friedrich von Siemens Stiftung is to present the Heinz Gumin Prize for Mathematics to Don Zagier, who was a director of the Bonn-based Max Planck Institute for Mathematics until 2019 and has strong ties to the University of Bonn. The foundation is thus honoring his pioneering research into number theory and the theory of modular forms. The Gumin Prize is worth €50,000, making it the most generous award for mathematics in Germany. 

Maize genes control little helpers in the soil

Tiny organisms such as bacteria and fungi help to promote the health and function of plant roots. It is commonly assumed that the composition of these microbes is dependent on the properties of the soil. However, an international team of researchers led by the University of Bonn has now discovered when studying different local varieties of maize that the genetic makeup of the plants also helps to influence which microorganisms cluster around the roots. The results, which have now been published in the prestigious journal Nature Plants, could help to breed future varieties of maize that are better suited to drought and limited nutrients.

This is what the "Excellence Strategy" is all about

The Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and German States was adopted in 2016 with the long-term aim of enhancing Germany’s standing and international competitiveness as a location for science and scholarship; implementation commenced in 2018. The associated grant program successfully rolled out in the earlier Excellence Initiative (of 2005-2017) forms the funding basis for the process of ongoing development at German universities. Roughly half a billion euros in funding is budgeted annually, three-quarters of which are put up by the federal government and one quarter by the German states. The goal: promoting research excellence by heightening the profile of the national higher education system and strengthening collaboration between its member institutions. The Excellence Strategy provides for two grant programs for which universities can apply:

What is a “Cluster of Excellence”?

Clusters of Excellence are formed as an instrument for providing project-specific funding to universities and university consortia for research in fields of importance in a context of international competition. In September 2018 the decision was made to allocate funding for applications connected to the University of Bonn for the current grant period, out of a total of 57 approved projects. The annual funding budgeted for Clusters of Excellence ranges between three and ten million euros, granted for an initial seven-year period. Both new and follow-on applications may be approved at the end of this period, subject to the limit of two funding periods for Clusters of Excellence.

What is a “University of Excellence”?

The grant program for Universities of Excellence is in place as a means to empower individual institutions and university alliances or consortia to make further gains as international research leaders. Annual funding of between 10 and 15 million euros is available for individual universities, and up to 28 million euros for university consortia. 
A new aspect to this grant program now is that universities of supra-regional stature are eligible for joint funding from both the federal and state governments on a non-temporary basis. For Universities of Excellence the condition applies that they must successfully pass a research evaluation every seven years. Decisions regarding funding for new and ongoing projects are to be made in 2026.

The University of Bonn's Future Concept

The Future Concept outlined by the University of Bonn was effective in convincing the evaluating judges to select the institution as one of eleven Universities (and university alliances) of Excellence. At the heart of this Future Concept lies a set of fundamental objectives: promoting transdisciplinary research, through the formation of Transdisciplinary Research Areas (TRAs); “We invest in people”—creating high-profile professorships to attract scholars of excellence across the range of qualification levels; “We foster networks”—forming and strengthening research alliances; and “We create impact” by furthering knowledge transfer and communication within the research community.

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© USGS on unsplash

Transdisciplinary Research Areas

The six existing Transdisciplinary Research Areas (TRAs) have touchpoints across the entire spectrum of academic inquiry at the University.

Exzellenzstrategie -  TRAs
© Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

The ‘Future Concept’

Our strategy to deliver excellence in research and teaching is summarily expressed in the slogan: “We invest in people, we foster networks, we create impact.

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Volker Lannert/HCM

Our Clusters of Excellence

The University of Bonn has six Clusters of Excellence, including alliances with the University of Cologne and the RWTH Aachen University.

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

High-Profile Professorships

Excellence at our University is further enhanced by high-profile professorial chairs: the prestigious Hertz, Schlegel and Argelander professorships.


Avatar Hoch

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Michael Hoch

Rector of the University of Bonn
Avatar Zimmer

Prof. Dr. Andreas Zimmer

Vice Rector for Research and Early-Career Researchers
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