Guiding Principles of the
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Exzellenz verbindet -
be part of a worldwide network

Our work

We sponsor top-flight, foreign scientists and scholars who come to Germany on the strength of our research fellowships and research awards to spend longer periods of time working together with German colleagues.

Humboldt Research Fellowships and Humboldt Research Awards are highly-respected all over the world. It is something special to be an Humboldtian. That is why we look after every one of them individually and flexibly. We want them and their families to feel at home in Germany and be able to concentrate on their work. Academic success for both the guest and the host as well as a worthwhile stay on a personal level are the objectives. Humboldtians and their families take a precise image of their host country home with them and become ambassadors for the modern and attractive science country, Germany.

Once a Humboldtian, always a Humboldtian. Even after the stay in Germany has come to an end, we stay in close contact with our alumni. In order to do so, we offer numerous opportunities for sponsorship. The fellowships the Foundation grants to junior German researchers to become guest scientists and scholars and work together with Humboldtians abroad allow both them and the host Humboldtians to profit from our network equally.

Our values

Academic excellence is our premier criterion for selecting new Humboldtians. There are no quotas, either for individual countries or for individual scientific disciplines. Our selection committees, composed of academics from all subjects, make their decisions independently and solely on the basis of the applicants' academic quality.

We sponsor people and not projects. Even in the days of increasing teamwork it is the abilities and dedication of the individual that are decisive for achieving academic success.

We think of ourselves and everyone sponsored by us as a worldwide family, upheld by bonds of trust and solidarity for an entire lifetime.

We support innovation through academic independence. Humboldtians are free to choose both their hosts and their research topics without any stipulations from the Foundation.

Our perspectives

Today, more than ever, research is international and subject to fierce competition between research locations. Because of this, we are constantly improving our offers for globally sought-after researchers in order to attract the very best of the best and thus strengthen research in Germany. To achieve this, we work together on marketing Germany internationally as a research country with various partners, and we continue to develop our cooperation with the European Union and its research and mobility programmes. On the basis of our traditional strengths as well as new ideas and initiatives we contribute to making Germany a top address for the international academic elite.

As well as this, we support international cultural dialogue as a long-term policy for peace and security, and to do so we make use of our network of understanding. With a programme tailored to the needs of researchers from developing countries, initiatives for Central and Eastern Europe, or European-Islamic Cultural Dialogue we react to specific regional and political requirements.

For both these aspects, marketing research in Germany and the political dimension of our work, we make use of our greatest capital: the worldwide network of Humboldtians and its many representatives, not only in important scientific but also in leading and influential political positions.

Our roots

Alexander von Humboldt was a discoverer and cosmopolitan, a fighter for the freedom of research, a humanist and a patron of excellent academic talent. Shortly after his death, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for Nature Research and Travel was established in 1860. Until it lost its endowment capital in the inflation of 1923, it essentially provided support for German scientists setting off on research journeys to other countries. The objective was to use international exchange in the spirit of Humboldt to overcome boundaries and promote universal understanding. A new Alexander von Humboldt Foundation was established by the German Reich in 1925. Its main purpose was now to support foreign students and later academics and doctoral candidates during their stay in Germany. In 1945, the Foundation ceased functioning. Today’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation was established by the Federal Republic of Germany on 10 December 1953, partly at the behest of former Humboldt guest researchers.

Mutual understanding coupled with academic freedom and excellence have remained our creed to this day. With Humboldt as a model, we maintain an international network of academic cooperation and trust. It links together more than 26,000 Humboldtians throughout the world, including 50 Nobel Laureates.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is funded by the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety as well as a number of national and international partners.