The German Academic Scholarship Foundation (German: Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes, or Studienstiftung for short) is Germany's largest, oldest and most prestigious scholarship foundation.[1] In line with its statutes, it supports "the university education of young people who, on account of their exceptional academic or artistic talents and their personalities, can be expected to make an outstanding contribution to society as a whole".[2] The Studienstiftung is non-political, non-denominational and ideologically independent. Its headquarters are located in Bonn; it also has an office in Berlin. The current president is Reinhard Zimmermann, and it operates under the auspices of the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.[3]

The Studienstiftung is funded by the federal government of Germany, the German federal states and local authorities, a large number of foundations and businesses as well as numerous private donors.[4] In 2015, the Studienstiftung's budget was over €103 million. Since its foundation, it has supported over 65,000 students and doctoral candidates; it currently has over 60,000 alumni worldwide.[5]

The selection process is extremely rigorous and only those students who show outstanding academic and personal promise are chosen. The Studienstiftung awards scholarships to fewer than 0.5% of German students.[6] It is often referred to as Germany's "secret elite university".[7]

Initially founded in Dresden in 1925 as a department of the Deutsche Studentenschaft, an amalgamation of German student committees, the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes was dissolved in 1934 under National Socialism and replaced by the "Reichsförderung", a department of the newly founded Reichsstudentenwerk. The Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes was newly formed as a registered association in Cologne in 1948. As well as offering scholarship programmes on a national level, since 2005 the Studienstiftung has also run the Max Weber Programme, which supports exceptionally talented students within the framework of the Bavarian Elite Support Act (BayEFG).


The German Academic Scholarship Foundation supports exceptionally talented students and doctoral candidates selected in accordance with its mission statement, which is based upon the principles of achievement, initiative and responsibility. Scholars are admitted through various channels:

  1. Nomination by a school: The principal of a high school or school with an upper secondary level can nominate one in 50 senior students for admission to the Studienstiftung. This student must excel both academically and in terms of social commitment. Nominated students attend a three-day selection seminar where their eligibility for funding is assessed in individual interviews and group discussions. 23.8% of students nominated in 2015 were offered admission to the Studienstiftung. There is no set admissions quota for the number of students admitted each year.
  2. Nomination by professors: Students at universities and universities of applied science can be nominated directly by university teachers. Again, candidates attend a selection seminar. In 2015, 48.3% of students nominated by their professors were offered admission to the Studienstiftung.
  3. Nomination by an examination board: Just as students can be nominated by schools, one in every 50 students in the second academic year in his/her respective study programme can be nominated by universities and universities of applied science. The nomination must be supported by a professor. The selection seminar is organised along the same lines as the selection seminar for students nominated by schools. In this case, however, the candidate's proven academic achievements at university also carry weight. In 2015, 28.8% of nominees were offered admission.
  4. Winners of a national or federal competition or nomination by select cooperation partners: Winners of or participants in various competitions on a national, federal or international level (e.g. Bundeswettbewerb Informatik, Bundeswettbewerb Mathematik, Bundeswettbewerb Fremdsprachen, Jugend forscht, Jugend debattiert, Internationale Mathematik-Olympiade, Internationale Physik-Olympiade, Altsprachenwettbewerb des Landes Baden-Württemberg) may be offered admission to the Studienstiftung. Select cooperation partners (e.g. START-Stiftung) may also nominate potential sponsorship candidates.
  5. Since February 2010,[8] candidates can also put themselves forward for a scholarship. First and second-semester students can sign up for the Studienstiftung assessment test in January/February/March[9] each year. The test is held at test centres throughout Germany. The applicants with the best results are invited to attend the selection seminar. While the assessment test determines applicants' cognitive abilities, the selection seminar focuses on motivation, extracurricular interests, social commitment and social skills, which are assessed in personal interviews and group discussions.
  6. Nomination by alumni: Studienstiftung alumni may also nominate students who they consider appropriate, having taught them personally in school or university courses.
  7. Support of musicians and artists: After an internal pre-selection procedure, universities can nominate students of the fine arts, music and the performing arts for participation in a Studienstiftung selection seminar.
  8. Doctoral sponsorship: Highly qualified and socially committed PhD students may, together with their supervisors, submit an application for support for their doctoral studies.

If admission occurs before the end of the fourth semester, sponsorship is usually granted until the end of the sixth semester. An extension of the scholarship beyond the sixth semester usually depends on academic performance in the first four semesters. In borderline cases, aspects other than academic achievements – such as exceptional social engagement or particular personal circumstances – may positively influence the decision to approve further funding. After an application has been approved, funding is awarded from the 6th semester until studies are completed (for example, until the master's degree or state examinations have been completed). In 2014, 91% of requests for further funding were approved.


The Studienstiftung supports scholars both financially and academically.

Financial support

Financial support includes a study expense allowance (€300 month) and a need-based basic scholarship, which is calculated according to the BAföG (Federal Training Assistance Act) and can currently be up to €825 per month. PhD students receive a monthly award of €1,350 plus a research allowance of €100.[10] Additional funds are provided for students and PhD students with children. Financial support is regulated by the guidelines of the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Visits abroad are also supported by grants or overseas allowances and the partial payment of tuition fees. Under the terms of No. 11 Einkommensteuergesetz (EStG – German Income Tax Law) scholarship payments are tax-free.

Academic support

The Studienstiftung's academic support includes summer academies, research groups, language courses, workshops and supervision by local tutors, who carry out this task for the Studienstiftung on a voluntary basis. Scholars are required to submit a report on their studies and other activities every semester during the first semesters (usually until the end of the fourth semester), and once a year thereafter. Grant holders can also apply for funding in order to organise their own conferences and other events.

Internal scholarship programmes

In addition to its regular funding schemes, the Studienstiftung offers internal scholarship programmes for selected scholars and alumni. Examples include the KAUST-Studienstiftung programme, a joint partnership between KAUST and the Studienstiftung under the patronage of the German Federal Foreign Office which allows scholars from the STEM disciplines to join KAUST for research internships or to enroll in Master or PhD programs.[11] In the musical field, for example, in cooperation with the Beethoven House residence scholarships are awarded for young composers.[12]

Open scholarship programmes

Moreover, the Studienstiftung offers open scholarship programmes which are run and financed in cooperation with other organisations. The best known programmes are the McCloy Academic Scholarship Program, the ERP-Stipendienprogramm and the Carlo-Schmid-Programm.[5] Participation in these scholarship programmes does not require previous funding by the Studienstiftung.

The German Academic Scholarship Foundation statistics

  • In 2015, the Studienstiftung approved 2,391 student grants and around 350 doctoral scholarships.
  • In 2015, 65.2% of scholarship holders received a study expense allowance of €300, 21.3% received a partial scholarship and 13.5% a full scholarship:
  • Over 90% of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation budget in 2015 was publicly funded.
  • In recent years, the Studienstiftung has significantly increased the number of students from non-academic backgrounds and ethnic minorities: Currently 30% of scholarship holders come from non-academic backgrounds and 18% from an ethnic minority.
  • 47.8% of scholarship holders with a student scholarship in 2015 were women, and women accounted for 57.3% of doctoral scholarships.
YearFunded students[13]Number
of students
Undergraduate and graduate scholarsDoctoral scholarsTotal
Number of students and Studienstiftung scholars at German universities, with more than 1% of all students being Studienstiftung scholars[16]
UniversityStudents in winter semester 2014/2015Number of scholars (excluding doctoral scholars)In % of all students
Bucerius Law School874657,44
Hertie School of Governance433235,31
Zeppelin Universität Friedrichshafen1.061201,89
Charité Berlin6.7142133,17
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg29.7616332,13
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg24.2863831,58
Universität Witten/Herdecke2.021442,18
Jacobs University Bremen1.101141,27
Universität Lübeck3.711541,46
Universität Mannheim11.9221551,30
Medizinische Hochschule Hannover3.295491,49

Notable alumni


Business and NGOs

Public service



See also



Studienstiftung und Zeitgeschichte

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