was around Christmas 2003 when for the first time the former German red and green
government publicly mentioned that Germany needs at least one internationally
recognized "elite university." This started a discussion inside the federal
government and between the federal and the state governments that finally
lead to the call for proposals for the so-called Excellence Initiative in June of
2005. With the announcement of the winners for the grants of the second, and,
for the time being, final round on October 19, 2007, the application and selection
phase came to an end and the realization of the successful proposals is at
the center of attention. Therefore the time is right to analyze and question
of the competition, its effects on the higher education system, and to examine
the possible consequences of a continuation of the Excellence Initiative.
The political goal of the Excellence Initiative is to bring at least a few German universities up to the top group of international rankings such as "The Times Higher Education Supplement." As a first result of the political discussion around the launch of the Initiative, there seems to be a new consensus in Germany that top-level research, including the necessary institutions and education, must be provided in Germany. In short, mentioning the word ‘elite' or ‘elite university' became permissible again in German politics after 1968. At the same time, whether the high expectations that are associated with the Excellence Initiative can be realized is questionable.