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Statement on the university student selection process

The DGPs commission on student selection has published the following "Statement of the German Psychological Society (DGPs) on the university student selection process."

Statement of the German Psychological Society (DGPs) on the university student selection process

An amendment to the German Basic University Act (HRG) grants the universities themselves the right to allocate 60% of the available places in the central numerus clausus (restricted entry) subjects from the winter semester 2005/2006 onward. This reform will require corresponding changes to allocation regulations in the laws of each separate federal state. As a result, faculties teaching academic subjects with restricted entry will have to specify their criteria for this. The HRG has set forth a list of six such criteria that became state law at the end of 2004, although this list of criteria may be modified. These six criteria are: (a) level of qualification (grade points average of university entrance qualifications); (b) weighted individual grades (subject-specific aptitude); (c) results of a subject-specific aptitude test; (d) type of prior professional training and experience; (e) result of an interview to be conducted by the university; and (f) a combination of Criteria a to e.

The Executive Committee of the German Psychological Society (DGPs) appointed a commission in October 2004 with two separate tasks: (1) to develop specific recommendations for the selection of students in psychology and (2) to develop proposals on how psychology can apply its expert knowledge to develop comprehensive diagnostic instruments for future selection and placement decisions. The commission is composed of six established experts in Diagnostic Psychology: Prof. Dr. Manfred Amelang (Heidelberg), Prof. Dr. Lutz F. Hornke (RWTH Aachen), Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller (Erlangen), Prof. Dr. Lothar Schmidt-Atzert (Marburg; Chair), Prof. Dr. Hans Westmeyer (FU Berlin), and Prof. Dr. Oliver Wilhelm (HU Berlin).

In accordance with the Society's Executive Committee, the commission takes the following position on the pending issues:

The Short-Term Outlook: Suggestions for the 2005-2006 Winter Semester

The commission recommends that higher education institutes (called simply universities in the following) and specifically psychology institutes should apply two selection criteria to students wishing to study psychology in the winter semester 05/06: (1) grade points average of university entrance qualifications and/or (2) weighted individual grades. Such school grades have been shown to possess the highest predictive validity for academic success. They can also be ascertained objectively, cannot be falsified (in the sense that desired performance can be simulated in an application interview), and are legally incontestable. However, the German universities and colleges admissions service (Zentralstelle für die Vergabe von Studienplätzen, ZVS) will not single out and standardize individual grades from the school leaving certificates of different German federal states. This is a task that each university will have to perform for itself. No recommendation can be given, in contrast, to selection interviews, because these (particularly when not standardized) are too subjective, susceptible to judgment error, and easier to falsify. Above all, their predictive validity is only moderate. An additional fear is that selection interviews may strengthen the existing high level of social inequality among students in Germany, not to mention incurring major costs in terms of personnel and time.

For those federal states stipulating a further criterion in addition to grades, the commission recommends a standardized procedure to assess aspects of subject-specific academic aptitude (e.g., basic mathematics or reading comprehension). Developing such a test procedure is one of the commission's intermediate and long-term goals. However, it also assumes that the first components of such a test will already be available for applicant selection in the winter semester 05/06, and may be applied to the pending selection process.

The Intermediate and Long-Term Outlook: Developing a Standardized Test to Assess General and Specific Academic Aptitudes

One of the commission's intermediate and long-term goals is to develop academic aptitude tests containing both general subject-unspecific components and more specific modules. These test modules should measure how well an applicant meets the requirements for studying a subject. Individual universities should be free to base their selection on specific profiles that can be derived from this multidimensional test. The commission is currently working out concepts for such a test procedure, and is actively seeking partners to cooperate in developing and applying it. The idea is to develop and score the test at one center, but for it to be carried out locally at each university.

Generally speaking, the commission endorses the findings from empirical research confirming that a combination of academic grades and the results of an aptitude test are the best predictors of academic success.

The commission additionally suggests that the student selection should be supplemented by student counseling procedures in the form of a "self-assessment" enabling students to clarify their personal decision in favor of a subject and what makes them good candidates.

November 22, 2004
For the German Psychological Society
Prof. Dr. Hannelore Weber (President of the German Psychological Society)
Prof. Dr. Lothar Schmidt-Atzert (Chair of the Commission for the Selection of Applicants)

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