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Humboldt Rankings 2020 – The most popular German universities

Every year, more than 2000 researchers from all over the world are afforded the opportunity to conduct research at one of Germany’s many universities or research institutions by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, whose aim is to promote international academic cooperation between excellent scientists and scholars from Germany and abroad with the help of its interdisciplinary network of several thousand associates. This year, the foundation has again published its rankings of universities and research institutions after a three-year pause, which presents the most popular German institutions among foreign scientists. The complete 2020 rankings can be viewed here.

The rankings mainly take into account the number of guest stays by top international researchers and young scientists who have carried out research in Germany as Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellows or award winners, over the past five years. The total number of guest stays of international scientists considered in this year’s rankings is 6192. To avoid statistical bias due to the varying sizes of the host institutions, the Humboldt Rankings are based on weighted counting of the number of visiting researchers per university.

The rankings are a clear indicator that Germany is a favourite among a great number of international scientists, and that German universities maintain strong ties with universities and research institution from all over the world. The rankings also show that alongside large institutions many smaller ones have also managed to secure top places in the rankings.

Several technical universities and research institutions have managed to secure a top 20 spot in the rankings. The first three positions are taken by the Free University of Berlin, the Humboldt University of Berlin and the University of Munich. The 4th and 5th positions have been awarded to the Technical University Berlin and the Technical University of Munich. At the TU Munich, one of the main research areas is the development of renewable energy sources, as well as sustainable synfuel production. Recently, its scientists created a new synfuel, oxymethylene ether (OME), as an alternative to diesel fuel. This unique fuel combusts without producing soot, and with few emissions.

The Karlsruhe Instituteof Technology (KIT), meanwhile, has climbed to 17th position, improving its ranking position by one spot from 2017. This institution is particularly known for its outstanding research in the field of renewable energy production, energy efficiency and energy storage. Special focus is placed on the areas of concentrating solar power, bioenergy and geothermal energy systems. One of the biggest research institutions of the university as well as worldwide is the Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage Ulm & Karlsruhe (CELEST), researching lithium ion technology, lithium-free energy storage, as well as electrochemical energy storage. The Technical University of Darmstadt (19th position) is another research university where particular focus is placed on innovative and sustainable renewable energy systems. One of the profile areas, for example, is Thermo-Fluids & Interfaces (TFI) which deals with the diverse aspects of fluid dynamics, combustion, as well as heat and mass transfer. The research is aimed at developing new energy and process engineering products and processes as well as more energy-efficient machines.

Under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, German scientists fear that research activity might be greatly impeded as the virus negatively impacts international mobility, as well as free international scientific cooperation. However, they also believe that this may prove a great opportunity to develop new concepts of scientific exchange and cooperation for Germany to remain a major player in science and innovation.