German Universities in the DFG Ranking

Learn about the key facts, trustworthiness, methodology, limitations and more regarding the DFG Ranking!

In this article, we are going to talk about the DFG Ranking created by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG) -  the largest research funding organization and central self-governing body for science in Germany - with an annual budget of more than 3 billion Euro. Every three years, the DFG publishes the DFG Funding Atlas (formerly known as the  "DFG Funding Ranking" until 2009). Based on a large number of data from all major public research funders in Germany and the EU, this ranking provides us with detailed and diverse insights into where and how cutting-edge research and funding bear fruit in universities in Germany. That being said, if you are interested in knowing more about the research profile of your future university in Germany, look no further, as we are about to break down all aspects relating to the DFG ranking now! Below, you will get to know about the foundation itself, how it creates the ranking, the top German universities according to the latest ranking, and most importantly, how you can use this ranking as a reference to search for your dream study program.


DFG Ranking Fact Sheet 

Issued by

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation)

Frequency of publication

Tri-annually (since 1997)

Level of comparison

Institutional; departmental information available

Number of Institutions

85 universities with DFG support

Focus on

Research performance

Ranking parameters

Amounts of research funding universities could allocate from DFG


A good indicator of the institution’s research and funding profile 



This is part of our "Germany in University Rankings" articles' series


What is the DFG (German Research Foundation)?

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) is Germany's central autonomous research funding organization. The DFG's main task is to promote research in all its forms and disciplines at German universities and non-university research institutions by funding projects developed by the academic community itself in the field of knowledge-driven research. The selection of the projects to be funded is based on an anonymous peer review process by so-called DFG reviewers - who usually include the most experienced and renowned professors of the respective subject.  


In 2021, the DFG funded a good 31,600 projects with an annual grant total of 3.6 billion euros, which is mainly provided by the German Federal Government (69%) and the states of Germany (30%). As the largest research promotion agency in Europe, the DFG plays a decisive regulatory role in German research. Whether you want to work as an archaeologist on a dig in Egypt or you are a physicist who wants to test new theories (did we hear Einstein?), then the DFG would be able to finance both the purchase of expensive instruments and your travel expenses as a researcher to attend conferences or meet with experts in the field. Finally, in addition to its headquarters in Bonn, the DFG has offices in China, Japan, India, Russia, North America and Latin America, making it quite influential and well-linked internationally as well.

Is the DFG Ranking trustworthy?

Short answer: Yes!

Long answer: the DFG Ranking uses the “Funding Atlas” system, a system of key figures that collects its data from the funding bodies instead of the funding recipients. Thus, the higher education institutions documented in the rankings do not face the same burden of providing data as most other ranking and indicator systems. Another feature of the approach that increases its credibility is the standardized definitions it employs, so there are no errors arising from the different data management of the institutions included in the report. As a result of the "Core Data Set Research" initiative of the German Council for Science and Humanities, there is a growing recognition that research information recorded according to fixed standards can ease the burden of processing the most diverse data requests. In October 2020, the German Council for Science and Humanities presented a proposal to further advance the initiative, now named "KDSF - German Research Information Standard". The German Research Information Council (KFiD) will provide the necessary support for it.

DFG Ranking Methodology

For the DFG ranking database is quite comprehensive, with 8 indicators assigned to 4 categories:


Monetary indicators i.e.:


  • Current basic funds, administrative income and third party funding

  • DFG funding approvals

  • Direct research and development (FuE) project funding from the federal government

  • EU funding


University staff statistics

  • Full-time academic staff

  • Professors


Scientific expertise statistics

  • Review boards

  • Referees


International attractivity statistics

What does this ranking tell you?

DFG third-party funding is one of the most important research funds for German universities. It is applied for and approved strictly on the basis of research level, and therefore it is a good measure of the overall research strength of a university.


Further Reading

220 Universities for international students

What are the limitations of the DFG ranking?

The DFG ranking reflects the research strength of a university in the field of top-level research - but it does not contain any statements, e.g., about the quality of teaching, the level of application or the situation of students. Due to the methodology of the ranking, the Funding Atlas only reflects a small selection of the German higher education landscape: namely, predominantly the large (research) universities. Universities of Applied Sciences, Academies of Music and Art Colleges are not included - although the DFG also offers funding programs for them.

Top 10 German higher education institutions ranked by the DFG

Here is the list of the German Universities with the highest DFG awards for 2017 to 2019 (overall):


  1. München LMU

  2. München TU 

  3. Heidelberg U

  4. Aachen RWTH

  5. Dresden TU

  6. Berlin FU

  7. Tübingen U

  8. Köln U

  9. Freiburg U

  10. Erlangen-Nürnberg U