Research rankings

Research rankings 640x360

Competition is a key element in science and research, both for researchers and for research institutions. Recent years have seen competition in Europe take on new forms and a new quality – in Germany this has occurred especially in connection with the establishment of the European Research Area and the so-called Excellence Initiative, as well as its successor, the Excellence Strategy. This is why rankings have experienced a boom in Germany in recent years.

More and more attempts have been undertaken to rank excellence on the basis of new criteria and methodologies. Within the world of research, however, there has also been severe criticism of both the methodology and practical use of rankings.

Methodological criticism focuses, for example, on the quality and weighting of indicators or the overemphasis of research to the disadvantage of teaching. In terms of practical use, the allocation of institutional funding on the basis of such indicators has been criticised. These criticisms, in turn, have given rise to new approaches to performance evaluation, such as the European ranking system U-Multirank, which represents a new multidimensional approach to the international ranking of higher education institutions.

In the meantime there are many higher education rankings that work on the basis of different criteria and standards. That is why one international non-profit organisation, IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence, has compiled an online inventory that enables users to find and assess different rankings.

Below you will find a selection of important German and international university rankings.

German rankings

Humboldt Rankings

The Humboldt Rankings evaluate how attractive Germany’s higher education institutions and non-university research institutions are for top-flight international researchers based on data collected by the Humboldt Foundation. Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables over 700 researchers from all over the world to conduct research in Germany. Its research fellowships and research prizes are awarded exclusively to the best scientists and researchers worldwide. These awards allow them to complete a research stay at an academic or research institution of their choice. This choice serves as a kind of quality seal for universities and non-university research institutions selected by international researchers. The Humboldt Ranking 2017 includes a weighted ranking of universities and research institutions. It evaluates the research stays of roughly 6,000 Humboldt researchers in Germany during the years 2012 to 2016. > Humboldt Rankings 2017

CHE University Ranking

The CHE University Ranking offers students help in finding the right university or college. The ranking analyses information on approx. 40 subjects at 300 German universities and colleges, taking into account data on courses, teaching, facilities and research. This is complemented by over 150,000 students’ evaluations of the study conditions at their universities as well as 9,000 professors’ evaluations of the reputation of departments in a number of specific subjects. The CHE University Ranking is thus the most comprehensive and most detailed ranking of German universities and universities of applied sciences. The results are published by the German weekly newspaper "Die Zeit" and are accessible free-of-charge on the Internet. Registration is required to use the ranking. The CHE University Ranking for 2017/2018 can be viewed without registering on the DAAD website. > CHE University Ranking

Federal Statistical Office Data on Third-Party Funding

The Federal Statistical Office (destatis) publishes third-party funding statistics that rank German universities (without medical institutions) with the highest levels of third-party revenues per professor. Technological universities are especially successful at attracting third-party funding. They take 9 out of the 10 top places. In 2016, professors at German universities obtained average third-party funding of 258,000 euros. The average third-party funding per professor across all kinds of higher education institutions was approx. 175,000 euros. The Federal Statistical Office is an independent federal agency that is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Destatis is the leading provider of official statistical information in Germany. > Third-Party Funding Statistics (only in German)

International rankings

QS World University Rankings

The QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Rankings are primarily aimed at students, but due to their popularity they are also an often-used source of information for policymakers and other stakeholders in higher education. These rankings are not only strongly based on an institution’s reputation among academics and employers, but also take into account bibliometric indicators, student-staff ratios as well as multiple indicators to measure internationalisation and teaching quality. This comparison offers a league table of the 500 top universities, and displays the next 500 universities in ranking groups. > QS World University Rankings 2019


U-Multirank is one of the largest global rankings of higher education institutions. The ranking was initiated and is currently supported by the European Commission. Launched in 2014, U-Multirank is a unique, multi-dimensional, user-friendly tool for making international comparisons of higher education institutions. It does not only help students to compare universities on a like-with-like basis. U-Multirank 2018/19 includes information on over 1,600 higher education institutions from approx. 100 countries and draws on the views of 100,000 students who completed the student survey. It provides data on five areas: teaching and learning, research, knowledge transfer, international orientation and regional engagement. The ranking aspires to be modern and customisable, not providing a pre-built league table but rather a completely user-driven comparison. U-Multirank offers multiple indicators for several dimensions that can be selected and weighted according to individual preference.

Best Global Universities Rankings

The Best Global Universities Rankings is published by the US news magazine "US News & World Report". It aims to enable students to compare higher education institutions all over the world. It focuses on academic research (publications and citations) and institutions’ reputation. The ranking also provides insight into the global standing of US universities, which are ranked separately. It also lists the 1,250 best universities from over 60 countries. The list can be searched by region, country, city, subject or using the name of a specific institution. In addition it offers regional rankings for Africa, the Arab Region, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America. The data is compiled and analysed by Clarivate Analytics InCites. > Best Global Universities Rankings

CWTS Leiden Ranking

The Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at Leiden University in the Netherlands, one of Europe’s leading international research universities, is responsible for the CWTS Leiden Ranking. Published annually, the comparison ranks over 900 major universities from more than 50 countries according to their scientific performance. The results are based on a set of bibliometric indicators that provides statistics on universities’ scientific impact and their involvement in research collaboration. In addition to the traditional list view, where universities are presented in a list based on a selected indicator, the Leiden Ranking 2018 offers two further perspectives: the chart view presents universities in a scatter plot, enabling two selected indicators to be compared, while the map view presents universities in an interactive geographical map. The CWTS Leiden Ranking is based on bibliographic data from the Web of Science database of Clarivate Analytics. > CWTS Leiden Ranking 2018