World Knowledge – Structural Support for "Rare Subjects"

area of research: all "rare subjects"
type of funding: strategic concepts (funding line 1); ideas competition (funding line 2)
up to 1 million euros (funding line 1); up to 100,000 euros (funding line 2)
up to 7 years (funding line 1)
researchers of “rare subjects” with a high potential for innovation, interdisciplinary and international networking
applications may be submitted by tenured professors of the "rare subjects" (funding line 1), professors, post-docs or other staff of institutes (funding line 2)


The so-called "rare subjects" ("kleine Fächer") often represent a comprehensive, significant and future-oriented canon of knowledge of high relevance for interdisciplinarity, internationality, and innovation. Their complex subject matter enable them to address issues from a multiperspectival view, thereby contributing in a crucial way towards a multi-layered exploration of the world and a holistic "world knowledge". At the same time, these knowledge domains are often characterized by precarious structures inside the universities.

For this reason, the funding offer aims at a sustainable strengthening of structurally precarious knowledge domains in research and teaching. It is intended to encourage the representatives to develop innovative ideas for structurally strengthening their fields, as well as to invite the respective university leadership to create sustainable perspectives for the said "rare subjects". In addition, funding can be allocated to support measures aimed at making the wealth of knowledge encompassed by the "rare subjects" better known to politics and the public at large.

Scope of Funding

Eligible for funding are tenured professors of the "rare subjects", together with representatives of the respective university management (funding line 1), professors, post-docs, or other academic staff of institutes (funding line 2).

In funding line 1 proposals may be submitted in the form of strategically oriented concepts comprising different funding measures. The aim here is to promote the development of cross-institutional international networks that are to form the basis for cooperative ventures beyond the funding period.
Further details on the conditions and the application procedure can be found under Information for Applicants 113 (pdf). Applications must be filed electronically via the electronic application system.

In funding line 2 the Volkswagen Foundation wants to encourage representatives of the "rare subjects" to try out innovative measures of communication, in which researchers and the public engage in a mutual dialogue.


The funding initiative "World Knowledge – Structural Support for "Rare Subjects" was launched in September 2017.