Top universities

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.

There are now many higher education rankings based on different criteria and standards. That is why one international non-profit organisation, the 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:

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 more than 1,700 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 2020 includes a weighted ranking of universities and research institutions. It evaluates the research stays of roughly 6,200 Humboldt researchers in Germany during the years 2015 to 2019. > Humboldt Rankings

CHE University Ranking

The CHE University Ranking offers students help with finding the right university or college. The ranking analyses information on almost 40 subjects at approx. 400 German universities and higher education institutions, taking into account data on courses, teaching, facilities and research. This is complemented by evaluations, conducted by approx. 120,000 students, of the study conditions at their universities and by evaluations by 3,000 professors of the reputation of departments in a number of specific subjects. The CHE University Ranking is one of the most comprehensive and most detailed rankings 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 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 (excluding medical institutions) with the highest levels of third-party revenues per professor. Technical universities are especially successful at attracting third-party funding. They occupy seven of the top ten places. In 2020, professors at German universities obtained on average 287,000 euros in third-party funding. Third-party funding per professor across all kinds of higher education institutions averaged approx. 198,000 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)

DFG Funding Atlas

The Funding Atlas compiled by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) publishes key data on publicly funded research in Germany in order to present an overall picture of the research landscape and its financial support – and, in particular, the contribution of the numerous research funding agencies in Germany.

www. > Förderatlas 2021 (only in German)

Academic Ranking of World Universities

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) – also known as the Shanghai Ranking – is a global higher education league table that emphasises research performance. It is updated annually and is published by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy. The performance of international higher education institutions is evaluated on the basis of criteria such as the number of alumni and current staff that have won Nobel Prizes or other major research awards, the number of frequently cited researchers, the number of articles published and indexed as well as per capita academic performance in relation to the size of the institution. More than 2,500 universities are actually ranked by ARWU and the best 1,000 are published. > ARWU 2022

QS University Rankings

The QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Rankings are primarily aimed at students, but due to their popularity they are also often used as a source of information by 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 while over 5,500 universities were evaluated and considered for inclusion. > Rankings

Times Higher Education University Rankings

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THEWUR) seek to identify the world’s best universities. THEWUR gathers information in a total of five different categories: research (30% weight), citations (30%), teaching (30%), international outlook (7.5%) and industry income (2.5%). As a result, the internationalisation of higher education plays an important role in the evaluation of the universities. Rankings of the world’s 1,500 or so best universities are provided in six different subject areas. > World University Rankings


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 not only helps students to compare universities on a like-with-like basis. U-Multirank 2022 includes information on over 2,200 higher education institutions from approx. 100 countries and draws on the views of around 62,000 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 Ranking

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 2,000 best universities from over 90 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, 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 1,300 major universities worldwide 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 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.