Journal of Business Economics

, Volume 88, Issue 9, pp 1105–1132 | Cite as

In search of excellence: a case study of the first excellence initiative of Germany

  • Matthias Menter
  • Erik E. LehmannEmail author
  • Torben Klarl
Original Paper


As higher education policies are often associated with intense public spending, the evaluation and performance measurement of respective initiatives becomes increasingly crucial. An extensive and fruitful strand of literature has dealt with the assessment of university performance, yet mainly focused on point-in-time rather than period-of-time examinations. This study investigates the effects of Germany’s first Excellence Initiative, a political measure aimed at building up world-class universities to be able to compete in the globalizing research world. Relying on both qualitative and quantitative measures, taking into account a 15-year period from 1998 to 2012, we analyze the selection process and how and whether the Excellence Initiative fulfilled its ambitious goals. Our results suggest that not the political initiative per se, i.e. the treatment, but the announcement of the treatment triggered diverging performance paths within the German higher education system, thus positively contributed to augmented research performance of the promoted universities. Based on these findings, we provide policy recommendations and avenues for future research.


Excellence initiative Universities Treatment effect Announcement effect 

JEL Classification

H52 I23 O38 



We would like to thank the editors of this journal and two anonymous referees for their valuable and helpful suggestions and comments. All remaining errors are, of course, ours.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of AugsburgAugsburgGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of Augsburg and CCSE (Augsburg/Bergamo, It)AugsburgGermany
  3. 3.Faculty of Business Studies and EconomicsUniversity of BremenBremenGermany

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