Status effects of the German Excellence Initiative

  •  Kerstin Bruckmeier    
  •  Georg-Benedikt Fischer    
  •  Berthold Wigger    


Being granted a title enhances the status of the awardee while its loss has an opposite effect. The present article examines whether the latter effect dominates the former in the sense that elevation is less status-enhancing than relegation is status-damaging. Thereto, we use the three consecutive rounds of the German Excellence Initiative (a publicly funded program to promote outstanding research at German universities) as a natural experiment. We provide evidence that the loss of the title as a so-called “elite university” had a negative effect on the number of first year students. In contrast, we find no evidence for a positive effect on the number of first year students when a university is granted the title. Placebo tests suggest that this effect is in fact due to the loss of the elite status and does not result from a decline in university quality.

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