Important aspects of the Excellence Initiative

The Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments to promote science and research at German universities was a funding program first launched in Germany in 2005. The Excellence Initiative aims to promote both top-level research and the improvement of the quality of Germany as a location for higher education across the board. The aim is to sustainably strengthen Germany as a center of science, improve its international competitiveness, and make top university and science research visible. From 2017, the Excellence Initiative was merged into the Excellence Strategy, whose funding began in 2019.

External reviewers of an excellence initiative

+Pluswerk AG has already had several points of contact with excellence cluster applications from universities. In the process, valuable insights could be gained into how external reviewers experience and evaluate the online presences of universities. 

Typically, a university is assigned one or more external reviewers as part of an excellence application. These reviewers evaluate a variety of criteria of the university, of which one sub-criterion is the web presence. 

International perspective of the reviewers

It should be emphasized that these reviewers have a special focus on the international orientation of a university, and in some cases come from the international arena themselves.

For this reason, it is essential to offer a stringent and comprehensive international language version of the entire website. In our experience, a partial translation of the essential content into English is not sufficient, e.g. by means of a separate, "slimmed-down" EN version of the website. 
Instead, a so-called single tree architecture of the web content should be implemented, in which it is technically possible to translate each individual piece of content (in part also automatically). This is then accompanied by an equally logical URL structure (e.g. /de/... /en/...).

A University that unites your subdivisions and institutes

Very often, faculties, affiliated institutes and university-related services have separate web pages and/or designs. This usually stems from the historical growth of a university's online universe and not infrequently from the desire for autonomy and self-governance of departments, faculties, etc. 

However, from our experience, external excellence reviewers have a strong focus on uniformity in their evaluation of universities. A university of excellence should work as an interlocking overall construct and also present this to the outside world. 
In terms of the website, this means that there must be a consistent and uniform CI that is recognizable in all areas of the university. Fragmented navigations, strongly differing information architectures of individual faculties & affiliated institutes and different UX experiences must be avoided at all costs. 

+Pluswerk AG can actively support colleges and universities in the implementation of a uniform web strategy.

A contribution by:
Daniel is Product Owner and digital Consultant at+Pluswerk
Write to him at info(at)pluswerk(dot)ag