Freie Universität Berlin Most Popular Destination in Germany for Leading Researchers and Outstanding Young Scholars from Abroad

With Significant Lead in First Place in Latest Ranking by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Sep 17, 2014

Gebäude der Freien Universität Berlin.
One of the main buildings of Freie Universität Berlin. Image Credit: Bernd Wannenmacher

According to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Freie Universität Berlin is still the most popular destination in Germany for leading researchers and young scholars from abroad. As the foundation announced, Freie Universität reached first place by a wide margin in a comparison of the number of visits.

In the Humboldt Ranking, which bases its calculations on the number of professors hosting visiting researchers, Freie Universität defended its top spot in the recent comparison from 2012. With 141.67 points, Freie Universität placed ahead of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (112.45 points) and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich, 73.11 points). Even in absolute numbers, Freie Universität placed first nationwide. The ranking evaluated the number of visits by top international scientists and young scholars who conducted research in Germany sometime in the past five years as a fellowship or award winner of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

The president of Freie Universität, Professor Dr. Peter-André Alt, says these numbers are an indication of the university's success and an expression of its prestige at home and abroad. He said, "Our development strategy aiming to expand the international network university, which won awards in the 2007 and 2012 national German Excellence competition, is showing favorable results. How hard the competition is to attract well-known scientists from abroad, can be gauged from the fact that besides Freie Universität, only four of the eleven universities of excellence made it to the top ten of the rankings list.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is the most prestigious, and generally most important, source of information for international researchers from abroad. Every year it enables 2,000 researchers from around the world to conduct research in Germany.

According to the AvH Foundation, each decision made in favor of a research stay in Germany, is an indication of which subject areas are particularly good in Germany. The decisions also indicate which researchers in Germany have particularly intensive international contacts because the Humboldtians, as they are called by the foundation, select their host based on his or her academic qualifications and international visibility. A high position in the Humboldt Ranking is therefore an important indicator of international contacts and reputation. The foundation maintains a worldwide network of more than 26,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in 140 countries worldwide, including 50 Nobel Prize winners.

According to statistics from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Freie Universität is also by far the most popular destination for students from abroad. A study published in July, "Wissenschaft weltoffen," shows that during the 2012/2013 fall/winter semester, 5,417 students who completed their secondary schooling outside of Germany, were attending college in Germany. Furthermore, according to DAAD statistics, Freie Universität accepts significantly more students through the Erasmus exchange program than any other university in Germany: during the 2012/2013 fall/winter semester, it was 1034. With 1392 doctoral students in 2013, Freie Universität was again the leader, particularly in relation to the ten other universities of excellence. The university also performed extremely well according to funding statistics of the DAAD. In 2013, with a total of more than nine million euros recruited in funding from the DAAD, Freie Universität was able to defend its top position, taking first place in individual funding for scholarships for Germans to go abroad, as well as for foreign students to come to Germany.