Alexander von Humboldt Professorship
International Award for Research in Germany
Academics of all disciplines from abroad, who are internationally recognised as leaders in their field and who are expected to contribute to enhancing Germany's sustained international competitiveness as a research location in consequence of the award, are eligible to be nominated for an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship.
The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, which is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research through the International Research Fund for Germany, enables award winners to carry out long-term and ground-breaking research at universities and research institutions in Germany. The award funds, totalling €5 million for academics in experimental disciplines and €3.5 million for researchers in theoretical disciplines, are made available for a period of five years.
Nominations may be made by German universities; non-university research institutions may also submit nominations jointly with a German university.
Other important details
- The nominee must be recognised as a world leader in his or her field.
- The nominee must be established as an academic abroad.
- Nomination by a research institution entitled to make nominations.
- Detailed statement on the nominee's academic qualifications and his/her compatibility with the nominating university’s strategic development by the institution in Germany making the nomination.
- The nominating institution's strategic development plan, e.g., with regard to enhancing its capacity to compete internationally in the nominee's subject area as well as the nominee’s role as a catalyst in bringing about structural change.
- Assurance that the position can be sustainably integrated in the structure of the research institution even after Alexander von Humboldt Foundation sponsorship has come to an end.
- Observance of the Rules of Good Scientific Practice.
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Selection Department,
Jean-Paul-Str. 12, 53173 Bonn, Germany
Reviewing the nominations takes five to six months. Therefore, nominations should be submitted well before the meeting of the Selection Committee targeted. The closing dates for submitting applications are 15 April and 15 October. There are two selection meetings annually.
It is the nominators’ responsibility to ensure that they have submitted all the necessary documents. Nominations not submitted as a single entity will take longer to process. Applications will be assessed by independent peer reviewers in Germany and abroad.
An independent Selection Committee composed of academics from all disciplines makes the final decision on the nominations received. The competition between nominations is international and there are no quotas for countries or disciplines. The Selection Committee makes its decision on the basis of the nominee’s excellence and the persuasiveness of the concept for his or her involvement in and importance for achieving the nominating institution’s strategic goals (see Regulations on the Selection Procedure).
Nominees will be notified about the Selection Committee's decision immediately after the meeting.
New: expert reviews are no longer required.
One of our hallmarks is the degree of support we try to provide for every single guest researcher. This is why we offer you extra benefits in addition to the award amount: from invitations to events to language courses.
Once a Humboldtian, always a Humboldtian: Even after your initial research stay has come to an end, we shall still maintain close contact with you. Our alumni sponsorship is flexible and designed to support every Humboldtian’s particular path in life and development as well as collaborations between individuals.
This programme is financed by the:
Where do I find answers to the questions that are not addressed in these FAQs?
What are the basic differences between an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship and many other endowed professorships?
- You can apply for a Humboldt Professorship in any academic discipline. The Humboldt Foundation makes no stipulations on this point.
- The Humboldt Professorship is intended for the long term, i.e. the receiving institution must ensure from the beginning that the award winner will be given a tenured academic leadership position when the five-year sponsorship period comes to an end. This will usually be a W3 position.
- With the administrative lump sum (see “award funds”) the Humboldt Foundation provides the receiving institution with a tool that will facilitate the transition from Humboldt Foundation financing to its own financing.
Preparing an application
What are the most important application criteria?
Under what circumstances is it worthwhile to submit an application?
The Humboldt Professorship is conceived as an integral part of the university’s overall strategic development. You should therefore choose a department which is a planning major realignment and restructuring or has already embarked on this process.
Are there guidelines for joint applications by universities and non-university research institutions?
What is not possible is that the Humboldt Professorship should almost exclusively benefit the non-university research institution, i.e. that the university should only submit a pro forma application.
What agreements should the applicant institution in Germany make with the candidate before submitting an application?
We also recommend you to discuss the details of the appointment offer in advance, both in relation to the items to be financed from the award funds as well as those to be covered by the contribution to be made by the university. In addition, you should discuss how the position is to be continued after sponsorship has come to an end – this also helps to underpin the presentation in the application package. Experience shows that this also has a beneficial effect on later appointment negotiations.
Points to be discussed might include
- salary structures for the award winner and the working group
- teaching duties
- dual career options
- staffing resources, possibly a working group budget
- opportunities and limits for staff recruitment (employment contracts for members of the working group, advertising formalities; contracts for knowledge bearers also moving to Germany may hold surprises)
- pension provision, including previously accrued pension rights
- depending on age: potential concept for a senior professorship
- technical resources, facilities
- financial and technical challenges involved in laboratory relocation; time required for acquiring laboratory equipment
- current structures in the receiving department
- "road map" for commencing work in Germany and completing research abroad
- legal aspects pertaining to research in Germany, e.g. in relation to legislation on stem cells, animal rights, safety at work and buildings etc.; scheduling applications for permission, if applicable
- current relationship of the candidate to universities and research institutions in Germany (mentoring of doctoral or habilitation theses, working group leaderships etc.). It may be important to contact the Humboldt Foundation in advance to discuss whether any formal obstacles speak against a nomination (cf. FAQs on target group for Humboldt Professorships)
What stage should have been reached in appointment or employment procedures before an application is submitted?
Can a university submit several applications at the same time, and can several Humboldt Professors work at the same university concurrently?
Applicant university / research institution
Which institutions are eligible to apply
Can two universities submit a joint nomination?
Target group for a Humboldt Professorship
May researchers nominate themselves?
What constitutes an eligible candidate?
What qualifications are the candidates expected to bring with them?
Are Alexander von Humboldt Professorships awarded in certain preferred disciplines?
Is there a formal age limit?
Furthermore, the issue of sustainability should be observed: the proposal will normally be considered to be sustainable if the Humboldt Professor can be expected to continue productive academic activities for at least 10 years from the beginning of the sponsorship period. If retirement is scheduled to fall within this period, please explain how you intend to proceed in order to ensure the sustainability of the funding (concept for a senior professorship or similar).
Is it possible to nominate an academic who has already accepted an appointment in Germany?
Can the Humboldt Professor commute between his former location and Germany ("split appointment")?
May candidates be nominated who already are or have been in Germany immediately prior to nomination?
Academics who are academically established abroad, but also hold a regular position in Germany at the same time (such as a professorship, directorship or any other position under an employment or service contract), may not be nominated. If in doubt, please consult the Humboldt Foundation in advance.
Is it possible to nominate an academic who is not permanently associated with any research institution?
Is it possible to nominate an academic who has been sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the past?
Is it possible to submit a nomination for an academic who has previously been unsuccessful?
Which factors must be taken into account in determining the Humboldt Professor's personal income?
The Humboldt Professor's personal income may be supplemented using funds allocated in connection with the Humboldt Professorship, or from other funding at the receiving institution’s disposal. Hybrid financing and top-up benefits are also possible.
Is it possible to use the award funds for research purposes only (i.e. not for salary payments)?
Must the application explain how the award funds are to be used?
Should we provide specific information on the use of the lump sum for administration?
How should the lump sum for administration be used?
The general purpose of the lump sum for administration is to help the receiving institution make the future Humboldt Professor an offer that is too good to refuse. It is therefore advisable to find out about the candidate’s very specific wishes and needs in advance and to prepare a tailor-made package of measures.
Is there a limit on building reserves for future salary supplements?
Which documents must be submitted together with the nomination?
Can the application documents to be filed electronically?
How long should the documents be?
Do expert reviews or letters of support increase the chances of success?
Is it possible to name individual academics who should be excluded from the independent review process?
It is not possible to exclude entire “schools” from the review process. However, we do take the greatest care in selecting the individual, appropriate reviewers.
Selection procedure: timeline
Will the Humboldt Foundation confirm receipt of the application?
Will the Humboldt Foundation confirm whether the application is complete?
Who reviews the nomination?
Who decides on the applications?
Who will be notified of the selection decision and when?
How high is the success rate?
To what extent should applicants and candidates be prepared for a negative decision?
Does the Humboldt Foundation give reasons for a rejection?
Appropriation, use and provision of funds
Can award funds be transferred from one budgetary year to the next?
How precise should the details on the "fund request" form be?
By when should the entire amount of award funds be spent?
How should travel expenses be claimed?
Is it possible to use award funds to finance the costs of an official mobile phone?
Is it possible to take a lump-sum from the award funds to cover certain very small expenses (mobile phone, meals on journeys, public transport)?
Does the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation subsidise moving expenses or may award funds be used to finance domestic moving expenses?
Which sections of the receiving institution are entitled to the administrative flat-rate? Is it paid directly to the department in which the administrative costs are actually incurred or could the central administration/rectorate also make claims?
Is the amount of the administrative flat-rate based on the original amount of award funds or may accrued interest also be taken into account in calculating the amount?
Is it possible to use award funds to finance invitations to national and foreign academics to hold guest lectures etc. at the award winner's receiving institution? (Travel expenses, accommodation, meals, remuneration)?
I would like to take my group on a cultural/scientific outing to Hamburg. May I use award funds for the travel expenses?
May expenses incurred in connection with interviewing applicants for potential membership of the working group be financed from the award funds?
May award funds be used to finance the cost of German language courses attended by members of the working group?
May the costs of entertaining (academic) guests be taken from the administrative flat-rate?
We should like to set up a small kitchen with a coffee machine, fridge, etc. for the staff and invited guests. May we finance these purchases from the award funds?
May research funding from other sources (e.g. third-party funding from the DFG, EU etc.) be applied for in addition to the award funds?
Human and material resources
How may or should I employ my staff?
Are there rules/guidelines on advertising positions?
In which geographical locations should positions be advertised? Only in Germany, or in Europe, or should they address academics all over the world?
We would like to draw your attention to the site: EURAXESS Jobs on the EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion portal. Euraxess Jobs is a Europe-wide job exchange for researchers, where universities, research organisations and industry can post their vacancies.
Members of the working group not employed by the receiving institution do not have professional indemnity insurance. How can this problem be solved?
What are the regulations applying to the granting of fellowships to PhD students by comparison with postdocs?
How flexible am I with regard to the amount granted for monthly fellowship payments and additional benefits? Can I deviate from the rates foreseen for Humboldt Fellows and DAAD Scholars?
Does the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation provide forms for managing fellowships (e.g. sample grant letters, sample declarations of acceptance)?
Are representatives of the receiving institution signatories to the procedures involved in granting fellowships?
I am a doctoral student in the working group of an awardee and receive a fellowship from the Australian National University which will continue during the period of time I spend in Germany. As the cost of living in Australia is lower than in Germany I have been told that my fellowship will be raised to the level of the German doctoral tariff TVöD EG 13/2 (BAT IIa/2). Is it possible to use award funds to pay partial fellowships?
Are there any special procedures required by the receiving institution in order to pay fellowships or can I simply choose those who should be sponsored by a fellowship?
11. Is a fellowship granted in the framework of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship free of tax? A German tax office would like to be provided with proof and is also asking for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation's tax number.
At my receiving institution procurement of scientific equipment takes up to six months due to the complicated call for tenders. This would delay the progress of my research project. Is it, therefore, possible to procure equipment in a less "bureaucratic" fashion or would this kind of procedure conflict with the Regulations on the Use of Funds which state that the award funds must be used economically and prudently?
Can equipment/scientific supplies be purchased for the project abroad and then brought to Germany?
Are the award funds taxable?
When conferring fellowships funded out of award funds, particular attention needs to be drawn to applicable special tax regulations (cf. FAQ II.11).
Acceptance of the Award / Use and Provision of Award Funds
What commitments does the Humboldt Professor enter into by signing the declaration of acceptance?
Exploiting research results – publications, patents and licences
In the acknowledgements included in publications ensuing from projects sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship the Humboldt Foundation and the BMBF are supposed to be mentioned explicitly. Are there any standard formulations?
If it is planned to use the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation logo, the following needs to be observed:
- The use of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation logo in any kind of communication is subject to strict rules. The logo and its constituent parts are a trademarked name and may not be reproduced without obtaining the express written authorisation of the Foundation in advance. The logo comprises three parts: the head of Alexander von Humboldt, the script nameplate and the bilingual addition "Stiftung/Foundation". These elements jointly comprise the inseparable word/image trademark. The logo and its constituent parts may not be copied, altered or truncated or integrated in other logos.
- Use of the logo is authorised in publications and other, in particular public, presentations (e.g. conference presentations) of research results that were produced in direct connection with sponsorship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. For this purpose, the logo with the label "Unterstützt von/Supported by" may be downloaded from the password-protected section of Network Online in an electronic file format that conforms to the specific requirements for print: http://www.humboldt-foundation.de/web/service-portal.html
- Any other use of the logo requires prior written permission from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and must be requested in writing, stating the intended use of the logo.