1 September 2017, No. 20/2017

Humboldt Rankings: Where scientists from abroad want to conduct research

Berlin, Munich, Bonn and Göttingen at the top of the list

The universities in the major conurbations Berlin and Munich are in particular demand among foreign researchers. However, universities of smaller cities such as Bonn and Göttingen are also popular according to the Humboldt Rankings released today. The ranking list shows how many researchers have come to Germany on a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the last five years – and the institutions where the greatest numbers of these researchers spent their research stays.

The top positions in the Humboldt Rankings are held by the Freie Universität Berlin and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, followed by the Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität and the Technical University, both in Munich. The Universities of Bonn and Göttingen, the TU Berlin, Heidelberg University, the University of Bayreuth and RWTH Aachen University claim positions five to ten. The largest moves up the ranking list since the last Humboldt Rankings in 2014 were posted by the Universities of Potsdam (which advanced from position 17 to 11), Cologne (from 18 to 13), and Bochum (from 21 to 14).

"The Humboldt Rankings are a label of quality for internationality – which is not dependent on the size of the particular university", said the President of the Humboldt Foundation, Helmut Schwarz. "The list of popular and internationally visible universities is not limited to universities in major cities or the winners of the latest Excellence initiative. Universities like the ones in Bonn, Göttingen and Bayreuth are also internationally known and networked and consequently in demand. This diversity is one of Germany's biggest strengths when competing in the international arena", noted Schwarz.

In order to determine the Humboldt Rankings, the number of research stays by top international researchers and junior researchers who have conducted research in Germany in the last five years in connection with a fellowship or award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation are counted. To avoid statistical bias arising from differences in the size of the host institutions, the rankings relate the number of research stays to the number of professors at the respective university.

In addition to the overall list, rankings were also drawn up for individual disciplines. An overview can be found in the unabridged Humboldt Rankings. As in the last ranking from 2014, Max Planck institutes top the list of non-university research institutions: The Fritz Haber Institut in Berlin, the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam and the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Düsseldorf hold the top three positions.

Top 20 host universities

Institution Weighted (absolute) number of guest researchers*
1 Freie Universität Berlin 124.77 (272)
2 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 92.69 (241)
3 Universität München (LMU Munich) 70.88 (258)
4 Technical University of Munich (TUM) 59.60 (177)
5 University of Bonn 57.10 (173)
6 University of Göttingen 56.72 (152)
7 Technische Universität Berlin
(TU Berlin)
55.04 (131)
8 Heidelberg University 50.00 (182)
9 University of Bayreuth 45.64 (68)
10 Technische Hochschule Aachen
(RWTH Aachen University)
44.03 (118)
11 University of Potsdam 43.80 (60)
12 Bielefeld University 43.67 (69)
13 University of Cologne 41.89 (124)
14 Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) 41.30 (102)
15 Münster University 40.29 (141)
16 University of Konstanz 40.27 (60)
17 Karlsruher Institute of Technology (KIT) 39.84 (98)
18 University of Freiburg 39.53 (119)
19 Technische Universität Darmstadt 38.27 (75)
20 Universität Frankfurt am Main
(Goethe University Frankfurt)
37.68 (130)

*Number of foreign guest researchers per 100 professors at the host university

The unabridged Humboldt Rankings and further information are available at:

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 28,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 54 Nobel Prize winners.


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