Germany: Selection process for medical students deemed partly unconstitutional

Germany's top court has ruled that the current method universities use to allocate places for medical studies violates equal opportunity laws. The federal government is to regulate the criteria used for offering places.

The selection methods used by German universities for medical students has been deemed partly unconstitutional and must be overhauled by 2019, the country's highest court ruled on Tuesday.

Germany | 11.04.2013

The constitutional court in Karlsruhe found that the allocation of medical places at university had violated equal opportunity laws because the selection procedures were found to be unfair.

Read more: Students face uphill battle to become masters

Following the ruling, the federal government, along with state officials, must draft a series of measures before the end of 2019 ensuring that suitability interviews at university medical departments take place in a "standardized and structured form."

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Germany Today | 08.02.2013

Overcoming Academic Hurdles

In no discipline is competition for university places in Germany as high as in medicine.

According to government figures, each year sees some 62,000 applicants apply for just 11,000 university places in medical schools, or around five applicants for each place. Unlike in the United States or United Kingdom, tertiary education is often free in Germany, although places are limited and many institutions suffer from overcrowding.

Under the current system, German universities are able to apply what was known as the 20-20-60 rule for prospective medical students. Twenty percent of places are allocated to students with the very best overall marks in the final school exams, a selection process generally referred to as the numerus clausus. Often students with marks as high as 1.2 (the equivalent of a 3.9 GPA in the US) would not be guaranteed a place.

A further 20 percent of places go to students who had been previously been placed on a waiting list.

Read more: German med student improves water quality in Uganda

The remaining 60 percent are chosen based on various criteria determined by the individual universities — a system the judges found to be unfair.

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Three universities — Aachen, Bonn and Düsseldorf — base their selection only on the average school grades, while a number of other institutions make prospective students have an interview. Lawmakers must now work to lift these discrepancies. 

Applicants who are not accepted in the first selection round can be put on a waiting list for up to seven years, according to some estimates. The court also ordered officials to work on shortening those waiting times.

The claim was taken to court by two applicants who had achieved a grade of 2.0 and 2.6, but hadn't been admitted to medical school after being on the waiting list for eight and six years respectively. 

University of Cologne (10)

The university in the city that hosts one of Germany's largest parties, Karneval, comes in tenth place. The relaxed attitude of the locals make it a popular destination with international students as does its proximity to other major European cities - it is a train ride from Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.

Goethe University Frankfurt (9)

The university is named after German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, just in case you were wondering. Frankfurt, which is often called "Mainhattan" because of its skyscrapers, is one of the country's ethnically diverse cities, and its banking sector offers a lot of opportunities.

University of Duisburg-Essen (8)

With 37,000 students, the University of Duisburg-Essen is one of the largest higher education institutions in Germany. The university is a result of a merger in 2003 by the Universities of Duisburg and Essen. Studying in this region puts students in Germany's most densely populated region, the Ruhr Valley.

University of Heidelberg (7)

Founded in 1386, it is the oldest university in Germany. Bearing that title makes the university one of the most attractive destinations for foreign students, not to mention the appeal of Heidelberg - a city with one of the most charming and intact old towns in Germany.

Humboldt University Berlin (6)

It is one of the oldest universities in Germany. With notable alumni including Otto von Bismarck, Heinrich Heine, Robert Koch and African American activist WEB Dubois, the university also has a great reputation.

Technical University of Berlin (5)

Berlin isn't only popular with tourists. Students love it. Apart from being known for its high ranked engineering program, Technical University of Berlin's location in the German capital is advantageous because it the cost of living is lower than other large western European cities.

RWTH Aachen University (4)

RWTH Aachen university is located in the city it's named after, which lies on the German border with Belgium and the Netherlands. As Germany's largest technical university, RWTH's motto, "Zukunft denken" (Thinking the future) , also clearly reflects the university's reputation in the country.

The Munich University of Technology (3)

The Bavarian capital is also home to another world class institution - the Munich University of Technology. In 2013, just under one in five students were foreign, according to the university's figures.

Ludwig Maximilian University (2)

Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) is in Munich, which was ranked "the world's most livable city" by Monocle magazine in 2013. It is one of Germany's oldest and most prestigious universities - 34 Nobel laureates are associated with LMU.

Free University of Berlin (1)

The Free University of Berlin (FU Berlin) was founded in 1948. Its name is a reference to West Berlin because of its status as part of the "free world" unlike its counterpart in then Soviet-occupied East Berlin, Humboldt University. FU Berlin is among the 11 institutions in the German Universities Excellence Initiative.

dm/jm (dpa, AFP)

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