LMU in the Excellence Initiative

As one of the most successful universities in the Excellence Initiative, LMU was consistently funded in all funding lines throughout the competition.

LMUexcellent: final report (2005 - 2019)

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The Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments aimed to promote top-level research and to strengthen Germany's position as a research location, increasing its international visibility. The program has profoundly changed Germany’s higher education and science system. Funding in the Excellence Initiative was provided for projects in three funding lines: graduate schools, Clusters of Excellence, and institutional strategies.

With four Clusters of Excellence, four graduate schools and its institutional strategy, LMU was one of the most successful German universities in the Excellence Initiative. From 2006 to 2019, LMU was consistently funded in all three funding lines. The University has used its Institutional Strategy, LMUexcellent, as a central instrument to create internationally attractive framework conditions for research, recruitment, and the promotion of junior academics as well as to attract excellent academics at all career levels and, thus, significantly increase LMU’s international visibility.

LMU has been successful again in the follow-up competition to the Excellence Initiative – the Excellence Strategy – and was awarded the title of "University of Excellence" as well as four Clusters of Excellence (applied for jointly with the Technical University of Munich).

1st funding line: graduate schools

The graduate schools funding line aimed to promote early-career researchers. In structured, interdisciplinary doctoral programs, outstanding doctoral students from Germany and abroad were prepared for an academic career in the best possible way. A total of four graduate schools in the life sciences, the humanities and the social sciences were established at LMU.

2nd funding line: Clusters of Excellence

The Clusters of Excellence funding line helped establish large-scale interdisciplinary projects – in close cooperation with non-university research institutions and business partners – conducting internationally visible top-level research. Consequently, the Clusters of Excellence thus also formed an important component of the LMU’s strategic planning and served to sharpen its profile.

Four Clusters of Excellence were funded at LMU. In addition, LMU contributed significantly to a Cluster of Excellence maintained by the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

3rd funding line: institutional strategies

LMU is one of the most successful research-intensive universities in Germany. With its Institutional Strategy, LMUexcellent, the University has successfully increased its overall attractiveness, promoted excellent research in a targeted manner, further advanced the formation of research focuses, and thereby sharpened its scientific profile in the long term. Today, thanks in part to the funding provided by the Excellence Initiative, LMU is an international top-level university.

The University has substantially improved its promotion of junior academics through sustained reforms, has expanded its instruments for recruiting outstanding researchers, and has further professionalized its governance structures. In addition, LMU has developed an innovative concept for research-oriented teaching within the framework of LMUexcellent.

Equal opportunities and inclusion as well as internationality have served as guiding principles for all measures implemented at LMU within the framework of its Institutional Strategy. Successful measures have been continued and are being further developed within the framework of LMU’s current funding as University of Excellence.


During the twelve-year funding period of LMU’s institutional strategy LMUexcellent, numerous successes were achieved and new structures established.

In order to successfully position itself in the global competition for the best scientific minds, LMU developed new instruments for recruitment: For instance, appointment procedures were organized more efficiently and proactive appointment processes were established. Also, special attention was successfully given to the cross-cutting issues of Equal Opportunities and Inclusion, and Internationalization: Thus, for example, the proportion of women among new appointments was 30% in 2016-2019, compared to 19% in 2006-2009. To recruit outstanding junior academics, LMU introduced its comprehensive tenure-track model during the first funding phase of the Excellence Initiative and has continuously expanded it since then (around 250 appointments between 2006 and 2019). Excellence Initiative funding was also used to provide additional resources for the endowment of strategically important professorships, making it even more attractive for outstanding researchers from all over the world to conduct research and teach at LMU. Within the framework of these instruments, numerous professors of international renown were attracted to LMU. In addition, LMU gained autonomy with regard to appointments through the transfer of the right to appoint professors from the Free State of Bavaria in 2009.

With its Institutional Strategy, LMUexcellent, LMU promoted internationally outstanding top-level research. Thus, the University increased its global visibility and deepened cooperation with its international partners in science and business.

LMUexcellent put a particular focus on establishing competitive framework conditions for top-level research. Various funding instruments were established, particularly including the Investment Fund, which provides seed funding to support innovative research projects and the procurement of large-scale third-party funding projects at the national and international level, such as DFG CRCs or the ERC grants. Between 2014 and 2019, the Investment Fund has supported successful third-party funding projects from all of LMU’s subject areas as part of which a total funding volume of almost 160 million euros could be secured.

Moreover, international key collaborations with top universities worldwide were established and further strengthened, including the recent conclusion of a strategic partnership with the University of Cambridge. As a forum for exchange across disciplinary as well as national boundaries, LMU established the Center for Advanced Studies (CAS), which has since hosted a total of more than 500 Visiting Fellows. With the Center for Leadership and People Management, LMU has also created an institution providing targeted support for scientists in their specific leadership tasks.

By way of the LMU Academic Career Program, the University successfully created excellent research and training conditions for outstanding junior academics at all stages of their academic careers – from the doctoral phase to a professorship. The program was supplemented by the establishment of new measures and services such as the CAS Young Center, the Graduate Center, as well as LMU Mentoring.

  • Doctoral phase: In the course of the Excellence Initiative, LMU has optimized the research training conditions for doctoral students. The Graduate Center was established as the central coordination, advice and service unit for doctoral studies at LMU, both supporting doctoral students in their career planning and profile development and advising established academics with regard to the establishment of structured doctoral programs. Between 2008 and 2019, LMU has increased the number of structured doctoral programs at the University from 13 to more than 40. In addition to information, consultation and qualification services (more than 550 events to date), doctoral students may receive support in their career development by funding for the organization of their own conferences and events as well as for completion grants for the final phase of the doctorate.
  • Postdoc phase: LMU has established numerous successful measures to support postdocs in developing a competitive research profile through the development of scientific independence as well as international networking and mobility. Thus, for instance, until 2019 seed funding in the Junior Researcher Fund has supported the successful procurement of prestigious third-party funding awards and prizes directed at junior academics such as DFG Emmy Noether Junior Research Groups or ERC Starting Grants amounting to a total grant volume of more than 22 million euros to date. Between 2009 to 2019, the LMU Research Fellowship program enabled the University to attract a total of 65 excellent junior academics from all over the world to LMU. In 2017, the program was further strengthened by the award of co-funding from the EU's Marie Skłodowksa Curie COFUND program. At the Center for Advanced Studies (CAS), the Junior Researchers in Residence program gives early-career researchers of LMU the opportunity to spend a research semester at CAS.
  • Tenure-track phase: LMU was one of the first universities in Germany, more than fifteen years ago, to develop a tenure track model, which offers a reliable career path to a permanent professorship (around 250 appointments between 2006 and 2019; between 2015 and 2019, 92% of all W2 professors at LMU were appointed to tenure-track professorships). LMU has continuously expanded the tenure track model. For instance, the option of recruiting recipients of prestigious research awards directed at junior academics, in particular ERC Starting Grantees, to tenure-track professorships has been introduced. Moreover, in exceptional cases, the tenure track model allows for promotion to a W3 professorship. Various consultation, information and professional training services (including those offered by the Center for Leadership and People Management) support tenure-track professors in their further career development and in establishing themselves as independent researchers.

Through both funding phases of its Institutional Strategy, LMU has demonstrated its strategic capabilities and has developed governance structures and processes that strengthen its autonomy and contribute to internationally outstanding framework conditions for excellent research and teaching. In doing so, scientific freedom and academic excellence have consistently acted as guiding principles for LMU. In addition, LMU’s governance is based on an equilibration of bottom-up and top-down elements that incorporate scientific competition as well as continuous dialogue between all relevant entities of the University. The central cross-cutting issues of Equal Opportunities and Inclusion as well as Internationalization were systematically taken into account by the University Governing Board with regard to all funding measures and decision-making processes.

Recently, Digitalization has emerged as an additional cross-cutting issue.

In order to ensure optimal conditions for cutting-edge research, the range of consultation, advice and service offers for doctoral students, junior academics and established researchers has been greatly expanded as part of LMU’s funding in the Excellence Initiative, and tailored to the respective target groups. LMU now offers a comprehensive range of services to its individual target groups. In addition, new structures have been created, such as:

Particularly successful measures and instruments in all three funding lines have been continued within the framework of the University's dedicated sustainability program as well as within the framework of LMU’s funding as University of Excellence. Thus, professorships and staff positions created as part of the University's graduate schools and Clusters of Excellence as well as successful funding and service infrastructures developed within the framework of LMUexcellent have largely been transferred to the University's basic funding.