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Education & knowledge

Vibrant Hub of Knowledge

Germany is well positioned as an academic hub. Research has a more international focus than ever before.
© Matthias Jung/laif

Germany is one of the top places in the world for research and academic training. This is symbolised by the fact that with more than 80 awards, Germany places third among the nations with the most Nobel laureates. In a globalised world in which knowledge is regarded as the most important resource, the country, with its long-standing tradition of research and development, is well positioned in the ­international competition for the best minds. Three major aspects shape this vibrant hub of knowledge: the dense network of around 400 higher education institutions, strong industrial research, and the four internationally renowned non-university research organisations, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association, and the Max Planck Institute.. Internationally, Germany is in the top group of those few countries to invest some 3 percent of their gross domestic product in research and development; the figure is set to be boosted to at least 3.5 percent by 2025.

Patents of relevance to global markets 2016

per million inhabitants, Source: BMBF

Successful strategy fostering excellence

With numerous reforms, the government and higher education institutions took the initiative to advance Germany as a hub of knowledge and place it on a more international footing.  Success stories included, for example, the Excellence Initiative, and the subsequent Excellence Strategy: The latter supports ten outstanding Excellence Universities, an Excellence Network and 57 Excellence Clusters, thereby strengthening top university research. The High-Tech Strategy 2025 drives technological innovation with regard to major social issus such as climate protection, mobility, and thus consolidates Germany’s position in worldwide competition. The Strategy for the Internationalisation of Science and Research strengthens Germany as a player in the global knowledge society. In this, worldwide networking is the key.

As Europe’s biggest research nation, in 2014 Germany was the first EU Member State to formulate a strategy for further shaping the European Research Area (ERA). The Research and Innovation Pact also provides a stimulus: Universities and scientific organisations commit to specific research-policy aims and in return receive additional funding. Moreover, with the Higher Education Pact 2020 and the subsequent future Agreement the Federal government responded to the growing number of students in Germany and laid an important foundation for ensuring the quality of study in the country.

Particular attention is paid to an international focus. As part of the Bologna Process, higher education courses to a large extent now lead to Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, with many of them offered in a foreign language. By way of contrast with many other countries, there are no tuition fees for courses at state higher education institutions. For international students Germany is one of the five most popular countries in which to study. The number of international members of staff at higher education institutions also rose steadily in recent years, and stands at around 12 percent. Many German higher education institutions are involved in the “export” of degree courses and the establishment of higher education institutions based on the German model in the international education market. There are also numerous young Germans studying abroad – in 2017 for 1,000 German students at higher education institutes in the country there were 55 studying abroad.


Spending on research and development in million €

Source: Destatis

International networking

In comparison with other countries, the German education system is in prin­ciple relatively well adapted to the needs of the labour market. 87 percent of adults in Germany have a university entrance qualification or successfully completed vocational training. The OECD average is only 86 percent.

Networking with international partners plays an important role for German higher education institutes. Over the past few years, they very much expanded their global cooperation agreements. The Federal government supports them in this through the Federal Foreign office and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). As part of the Federal Foreign Office’s Research and Academic Relations Initiative, since 2009 five Excellence Centres have been established in Chile, Columbia, Russia, and Thailand. At each of these, several higher education and other institutions from Germany and the partner country work together.