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Excellence Initiative and Excellence Strategy

In only forty years, the University of Bremen – founded in 1971 – has achieved the status of being named a “University of Excellence”. In 2012, together with ten other German universities, it received this acknowledgement of merit for its institutional strategy concept for cutting-edge research. What some have called “the Weser miracle” was the result of high motivation, close cooperation, and clear profiling over several decades. The University continues to pursue its path of excellent research. This remains the case, even though it was unable to gain the required two clusters of excellence in the current round of the Excellence Initiative and is therefore no longer eligible to apply to the funding program “Excellence University” in the period after 2019.

With the Cluster of Excellence „The Ocean Floor – Earth’s Uncharted Interface“ of MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, the University of Bremen will be part of the Excellence Strategy. Following up on the current Cluster of Excellence at MARUM, the new Cluster of Excellence that will be funded for seven years (2019-2026), will again be located in the marine sciences. In the first phase of the Excellence Initiative, the Bremen International Graduate School for Marine Sciences GLOMAR had already been funded and was later integrated into MARUM as a permanent structure. The socio-scientific graduate school BIGSSS was also funded for two phases in the Excellence Initiative. Following the end of this funding line, BIGSSS has been established as a permanent structure of the University of Bremen and the Jacobs University.

Nevertheless, the University currently has more DFG Collaborative Research Centers than ever before: This is mainly owing to its high profile research areas and profiling strategy that began over twenty years ago. The University of Bremen is now system accredited, and thus able to conduct its own independent quality management in the area of teaching. The current focus is on research-based learning and setting up innovative new masters programs, these are also characteristics of an Excellent University. At the same time, it is establishing new, dependable career paths with a tenure perspective in addition to the professorship career path. The whole University was involved in developing the future perspectives formulated in Strategy 2018–2028.

The Institutional Strategy

The institutional strategy entitled “Ambitious and Agile” is a development strategy for the entire University. The nine measures formulated in the strategy have strengthened the University as a whole. The funding totaling 45 million euro lasted for five years (November 2012 to October 2017). The federal and state governments have extended the funding by two years until 2019. The Excellence Initiative Board is the University’s advisory board for the Institutional Strategy. It advises on the university’s future research strategy.

Three Basic Concepts of the Institutional Strategy:

  • Strengthening internal networking and strategic coordination and above all intensifying collaboration with non-university partner institutes (strengthening profile areas)
  • Supporting new research ideas and creative groups in all subjects with appropriate funding offers (supporting new ideas)
  • Offering attractive career options for innovative young researchers (promoting talent).

The Nine Measures:

  • M1 New Governance
  • M2 Bridge Professorships
  • M3 Cooperative Junior Research Groups
  • M4 Exploration Projects
  • M5 Creative Units
  • M6 Future Fund
  • M7 Graduate Center Plus
  • M8 Postdoctoral Initiative
  • M9 Professor Program

A list of all funded measures can be found here.

Strengthening our Strengths

The Institutional Strategy built bridges: Eleven cooperative junior research groups (M1) have established new research topics at the interface between the University and our partner research institutes – and thus introduced a new career concept. Among their members was Céline Teney, who received both the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize awarded by the DFG as well as a Heisenberg Professorship. Five bridge professorships anchor long-term cooperation with our partners, who also participate financially. A new framework for this was created in 2016 with the establishment of the U Bremen Research Alliance. The Rectorate has also initiated other important developments in the University’s high-profile areas: MAPEX in materials science, and the merger of the social sciences into SOCIUM. Both now create more cooperation and more international visibility over the long term. And in computer science, the Graduate College Systems Design (SyDe) now combines the promotion of young researchers from the University, DFKI and DLR.


New Ideas

The Institutional Strategy has systematically expanded the University’s capacity for innovation: Only in this way can new topics, new structures and new areas of professorial work be established on an ongoing basis. Exploration projects for individual research were newly established. Supplemented by an interdisciplinary component, they are now an integral part of our Central Research Funding. With the Creative Units, the University has given six interdisciplinary groups the chance to pursue new lines of research – over three-year periods and with a great deal of freedom. It will also be possible to implement this innovative funding format in future. Moreover, as planned, the University is consolidating some of the limited-term professorships set up in the frame of the Institutional Strategy and which gave a boost to some particularly dynamic subjects (energy research, media and communication sciences, East European research and post-colonial studies).


With its Institutional Strategy, the University of Bremen placed emphasis on two groups in particular: Early-career researchers and women. Professorships were advertised explicitly for women, and only filled when suitably high-ranking academics could be found. No fewer than eight such professorships were established. The University has thus further increased its already above-average share of successful women scholars and scientists. In the context of the Institutional Strategy we have been able to put the promotion of young talent on a new footing: The offers for doctoral candidates in the central service center were extended and continuously evaluated. With BYRD – Bremen Early Career Researcher Development – we now also have a unit that serves as contact point and support for post-docs. Networking, self-reliance, but also preparation for the non-academic labor market, are the central focuses pursued with a long-term strategy – in addition to the new academic career path alongside the professorship, which has now been created in Bremen.


What also counts

The institutional strategy of the University of Bremen, focusing on internationally visible top research, also includes:

  • Hundreds of additional weekly hours of teaching by extra staff, often English speaking, hired using excellence funds
  • Further steps towards gender equity through excellence professorships specifically for women
  • Half of post-doc positions filled by women
  • More internationalization at all levels
  • Strong development opportunities for the humanities
  • Opportunities in internal competition for all subjects and subject areas (faculties)