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Since its re-founding in 1953, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has sought to bring top foreign researchers to Germany. An annual budget of around 40 million euros makes generous scholarships possible and ensures competitiveness in the face of increasing competition for the international elite. The visiting professorships are particularly popular with researchers from China, India and the states of the Russian Federation. The scholarship holders are selected by a high-caliber panel on the basis of their individual academic qualifications. They are free to choose their research topic and usually work for 12 to 24 months at a German institute of their choice. In addition, leading international scholars in their field are awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Prize for their scientific work and invited to Germany. There they receive further support in the form of language courses. In addition, freelancers will be provided. Not every one of the 300 or so universities in Germany exerts an equally strong attraction on top international scientists. All in all there are only 20 universities, to which half of the guest researchers are distributed. According to the Humboldt Ranking 2002, the universities in Munich, Heidelberg and Berlin offer the most attractive research environment. The picture changes as soon as the size of the universities is included in the ranking. Here, the relatively small universities of Ulm, Bayreuth and Karlsruhe displace many major competitors. However, the TU München remains the undisputed number one in the weighted ranking. The Universities of Ulm and Heidelberg follow in places 2 and 3. For the ranking, it was evaluated at which institutions the 2925 research fellows and holders of the Alexander von Humboldt Prize researched in the period from 1997 to 2001. It is striking that universities from the new federal states are catching up, but have not yet made the leap into the hit list.

Hans Groth

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