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12 May 2003

University of Heidelberg Front Runner in the Humboldt Foundation Ranking

Result indicates the high renown in which the University is held — Vice-Rector Prof. Dr. Angelos Chaniotis: "Especially gratifying is the fact that of all the research grant recipients and prize winners from the leading research countries more than half come to us"

"This is the second year that Heidelberg has achieved a leading position in the ranking by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation." This was the comment on the latest of the Foundation's rankings by Prof. Dr. Angelos Chaniotis, vice-rector for international affairs at the University of Heidelberg. The ranking is based on the number of visiting scientists and scholars per 100 professors and is "a very reliable indicator of a university's international attractiveness and hence of its reputation and its quality as a research institution," he added.

Last year Heidelberg was in third place, this year it has moved up to second. Chaniotis: "Especially gratifying is the fact that of all the Foundation's research grant recipients and prize winners from leading research countries — the United States, the European Union, Japan and Australia — more than half have chosen to come to the University of Heidelberg for their research sojourns." This result indicates the "very high renown in which the University of Heidelberg is held in comparison to other German universities."

The ranking is also a token of the success achieved by the universities in Baden-Württemberg, Chaniotis said. The first three places are all occupied by universities in that state, Konstanz, Heidelberg and Ulm. Seven of the nine universities in Baden-Württemberg figure among the 15 German universities with the highest record of intensive research activity. The ranking also reflects the achievements of less clearly research-oriented universities with a lower performance record and confirms the findings of other studies of the same kind. About half of the research sojourns are concentrated at 23 universities, Chaniotis said, which is just as remarkable as the fact that about 60% of all doctorates are done at 20 universities all told.

"This shows once again that research-intensive universities require sensitive treatment and sensitive funding, especially in Germany, where the universities are the most important locations of basic research," the vice-rector continued. The subjects, departments and institutions with the highest absolute numbers of Humboldt grant recipients in the last 10 years include physics, philosophy, physical chemistry, mathematics, theology, prehistory and protohistory, the South Asia Institute, organic chemistry, ancient history, molecular biology, German studies and inorganic chemistry.

"This list emphasises the enormous attractiveness of the humanities, and notably the 'smaller' subjects, and shows what a contribution they make to the internationalisation of the University of Heidelberg, the international reputation of German scholarship and the survival of the German language as a medium of academic exchange and communication. Subjects with only two professors, like pre- and protohistory and ancient history, can point to just as many Humboldt grant-holders as the entire Faculty of Law. About 17% of the visiting academics supported by the Humboldt Foundation since 1990 are representatives of these 'smaller' subjects, in comparison to, say, 11% in the case of medicine. Heidelberg's successes in this respect are largely due to the fact that as a full-scale university it represents a broad range of subjects and does a great deal to assure interdisciplinary contacts between them, thus strengthening the University's standing as a research location." (Chaniotis)

Heidelberg a No. 1 Research Address

For its ranking in 2003 the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has elaborated new and improved methods. In terms of the attractiveness of German universities for top-line international researchers, the University has 159 visiting academics, which corresponds to 34.05 per 100 professors and makes it second only to the University of Konstanz.

Over the last 50 years, the Humboldt Foundation has been awarding its research grants and research prizes exclusively to the best applicants from all over the world, so as to enable them to undertake research and study sojourns at the academic institutions of their choice. "For the universities selected this choice is tantamount to a token of excellence," the Foundation says. Humboldt grant-holders are researchers who can choose their cooperation partners from the finest institutions in the world. "The result is a show of confidence indicating which of Germany's universities are uppermost in the minds of researchers at an international level," writes the Foundation in a press release.

The Humboldt ranking indicates the institutions chosen by grant-holders and prize-winners for a total of 4,713 research sojourns in the period between 1998 and 2002. The Humboldt Foundation's new sophisticated survey methods take account of the trend observable among visiting academics to split up the research sojourn granted to them into several instalments. Though for a number of years now the average length of such sojourns has remained stable at 15 months, it is by no means uncommon for such sojourns to be spread out among different host universities. The only type of sojourn not covered by the ranking are those of less than 3 months serving such things as the preparation of projects or visits to archives.

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 50 Years Old

Every year, the Humboldt Foundation provides over 1,800 researchers from all over the world with the resources enabling them to embark on a study sojourn in Germany. Today, the Humboldt network links up some 23,000 "Humboldtians" from all areas of research and from 130 countries all over the world.

For more information:

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Florian Klebs
Antonia Petra Dhein
Humboldt Foundation
phone: +49-228-833258

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Updated: 02.04.2003


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