What Is ExStra?


About ExStra

German universities perform top-level research, and selected universities receive support from the German federal and state governments. To further strengthen the international competitiveness of research at German universities, the federal and state governments have established the Excellence Strategy (ExStra) as a permanent funding programme. Researchers and universities enjoy a completely free choice of research fields and profile areas. The annual budget for selected Clusters of Excellence and Universities of Excellence is currently EUR 533 million p. a., with the overall budget having been increased to EUR 687 million per year from 2026 onwards.

The key objective of the Excellence Strategy is to strengthen top-level research in areas that are internationally competitive, to institutionally strengthen German universities, and to advance the development of the German higher education system. To do so, the Excellence Strategy comprises two separate but intertwined funding lines.

Clusters of Excellence

This funding line provides project-based funding for internationally competitive research areas at German universities (annual budget: EUR 385 million; EUR 529 million from 2026). On 27 September 2018, the Excellence Commission of the Excellence Strategy selected 57 Clusters of Excellence (out of 195 proposed Clusters of Excellence) by means of a two-stage process. Funding for Clusters of Excellence is generally provided for two funding periods of seven years each. After these two periods it is possible to submit a new proposal, even in the same research area.

The funding line is administered by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). Clusters of Excellence are applied for by universities and are formed by outstanding researchers with the aim of collaborating in a specific research field. Supporting the latter with diverse opportunities for cooperation and research infrastructures, Clusters of Excellence provide excellent conditions for top-level research.

Universities of Excellence

This funding line is designed to fund institutional strategies that promise to strengthen universities as a whole, i.e. with regard to their performance in the areas of research, teaching, research infrastructure, knowledge and technology transfer, governance, personnel development and internationalisation (annual budget: EUR 148 million). Universities are only eligible to submit a proposal under this funding line once they have acquired funding for at least two Clusters of Excellence (or three in the case of University Consortia).

Universities of Excellence or University Consortia of Excellence receive funding to further strengthen their institutional profile and international position in research based on their Clusters of Excellence. This funding line is administered by the Wissenschaftsrat (WR, German Science and Humanities Council).

Clusters of Excellence

Universities of Excellence

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Facts and Figures

How does the review of clusters and universities of excellende work? Who is funded? Which panels are involved?

Facilitators and Organisation

Who makes the Excellence Strategy possible? How does it work and how are the ministers of the federal and states governments involved?

On the History of ExStra

Find out about the Excellence Initiative, the predecessor of ExStra