Press release

Reduced budget forces Humboldt Foundation to make drastic cuts

Speaking in Berlin today, Humboldt Foundation President Schlögl announced that the only way to finance better-paid research fellowships would be to cancel a programme.

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Foto der Pressekonferenz mit Robert Schlögl, Enno Aufderheide und Kristina Güroff
Robert Schlögl, President of the Humboldt Foundation (middle), Secretary General Enno Aufderheide (right) and Kristina Güroff, Team Lead Press (left)
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The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation sees no alternative to discontinuing an entire fellowship programme and making short-term cuts in primary fellowships and alumni sponsorships in order to be able – despite budget cuts − to increase the fellowships granted to the individuals it sponsors. This was announced by Robert Schlögl, President of the Humboldt Foundation, at a press conference held in Berlin on Thursday.

President Schlögl views this increase − the first in 11 years − to be urgently necessary, but still not enough. “In light of the international competition, we feel it is vitally important and appropriate to offer suitable fellowships to outstanding researchers who we want to bring to Germany and, indeed, are supposed to bring here as part of the mission the Foundation has been tasked with by the political sector,” said Schlögl. “Given that prices have risen more than 20% since the last increase in the level of our fellowships, this is just a drop in the bucket.” The increase is welcomed as a first urgent interim step towards attenuating the current financial effects inflation is having. However, it still falls short of the actual needs. As a result, a further increase is necessary in the near term.

Postdocs in the Humboldt Research Fellowship Programme will now receive €2,700 instead of €2,500 and experienced researchers will receive €3,200 instead of €3,000. The increase will be paid out starting December, with retroactive effect from 1 October 2023. Recipients of the International Climate Protection Fellowship will also receive a monthly increase of €200.

“For many years now, the Humboldt Foundation has endeavoured to obtain additional funding in order to increase the amount of its fellowships. Now, we have finally got the green light for increasing the amount of our fellowships, but no additional money,” said President Schlögl. The Foundation must therefore cover the matching financing with the funding it has received to date.

As a result, it will be necessary to make cuts elsewhere. The Foundation has decided against permanently reducing the number of research fellowships it awards even further. This would have serious consequences. The Foundation already had to turn down highly qualified applicants who then might look to other countries for funding for collaborative research projects. The Humboldt Foundation would need approximately €10 million in order to finance the necessary increase in the amount of its fellowships. As Robert Schlögl noted, “It is foreseeable that, all in all, we will have to reduce the number of fellowships we award by more than 100 every year. This is more than 100 missed opportunities for good ideas in German labs and libraries and more than 100 missed opportunities to make lifelong friends around the world.” As a result, a lot of talent will be lost to Germany as a place for conducting research, talent that could otherwise have been developed into lasting ties to Germany. 
“We have also observed that awarding fewer fellowships generally leads to a disproportionate decline in diversity since it is often applicants from generally weaker research systems who cannot assert themselves in the competitive selection process”, Schlögl explained. 

In order to avoid this and still be able to raise the amount of its fellowship payments, the Humboldt Foundation has decided to discontinue the German Chancellor Fellowship for prospective leaders. The number of fellowships will be cut in half for 2024. There will be no calls for applications thereafter. “It greatly pains us that we are compelled to give up this prestigious programme. Unfortunately, we see no other way to save money in the Foreign Office’s budget. Our aim in discontinuing this programme is to avoid causing irreparable damage to our core business”, said Robert Schlögl in Berlin. The German Chancellor Fellowship was launched in 1990 at the initiative of Germany’s then chancellor Helmut Kohl. It offers university graduates from the USA, Russia (since 2002), China (since 2006), India, Brazil (since 2013) and South Africa (since 2021) who have already gathered some leadership experience the opportunity to conduct societally relevant projects in Germany.

(Press release 30/2023)

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time conducting research in Germany. The Foundation maintains an interdisciplinary network of well over 30,000 Humboldtians in more than 140 countries around the world – including 61 Nobel Prize winners.

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