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18 September 2002

A First at the University of Heidelberg: Law Faculty Selects First-Year Students

1600 applications for 200 places — Rector Prof. Hommelhoff, dean Prof. Müller-Graff and vice-dean Prof. von Hoyningen-Huene very happy with results — "Heidelberg leads the way in Germany"

This term, the Law Faculty of the University of Heidelberg has selected its first-year students for the first time. "We welcome the fact that the allocation of study places in law no longer takes place via the Central Admissions Council in Dortmund," said Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff. "This way, we can systematically introduce more aptitude criteria into the allocation process." Hommelhoff went on to say that more highly motivated and performance-oriented students made greater demands on professors and lecturers, thus "contributing essentially to the creation of an intellectual climate in which the Faculty of Law at the University of Heidelberg will continue to uphold its leading position in the national ranking lists." Hommelhoff reasserted his plea for more far-reaching university selection involvement in the admission of students. Like law dean Prof. Dr. Peter-Christian Müller-Graff and vice-dean Prof. Dr. Gerrick von Hoyningen-Huene, the Rector is very happy with the results of the new selection procedure and sees it as "leading the way in Germany."

Some 1600 applications for the 200 places for first-year law students in the coming winter semester arrived at the University of Heidelberg within the deadline set. The University Admissions Law stipulates that 50 percent of the places be allocated on the basis of the Abitur (A-level) school-leaving grades alone, 10 percent on the basis of social criteria and 40 percent on the "aptitude procedure" that has now been applied for the first time. For the 100 places on the basis of the Abitur grades, an average mark of 1.2 was not good enough to ensure a place in Heidelberg.

700 applicants for test

About 700 prospective students applied to take the selection test. Accordingly, the university administration set up a new ranking list in which the subjects mathematics, German and one foreign language taken up to Abitur level were given special prominence. "We mistrust the average Abitur grade," said the dean and vice-dean in unison. "You can rely on the overall grade to some extent," said dean Prof. Müller-Graff, "but on significant points it's not accurate enough." After the weighting, the 300 best applicants were invited to a test in Heidelberg. "Our staff in the Students' Secretariat and the EDP department deserve the highest praise," says Head Administrative Officer for Study Issues and Teaching, Dr. Gerlinde Schlicker. "They did excellent work under an extremely tight schedule." Ultimately, 144 of the 300 applicants actually took the test.

"We've developed something with a lot of potential for the future," says vice-dean von Hoyningen-Huene, adding that from the outset the Faculty was in favour of an objective selection procedure. The vice-dean is himself an expert on staff selection. One of the books he has published (in German) is entitled: "Psychological Tests at Work". Accordingly, the Faculty called in a well-established Munich company that has developed and refined criteria for staff selection in private business over the past 35 years. In addition, the Faculty secured the advisory services of Dr. Manfred Amelang of Heidelberg University's Institute of Psychology. "With the help of these experts," said von Hoyningen-Huene, "we defined prior to the test exactly what we thought the ideal law student would look like."

The profile: unusually intelligent, flexible and stress-proof

The requirement profile was soon established. Law students must be unusually intelligent, flexible and stress-proof. The test enabled the Faculty to recognise six differently weighted criteria: intelligent adaptability, intelligent organisation, stability under stress, regulation loyalty, readiness to work hard and tenacity. The first two criteria were given above-average significance by the Faculty, the others less.

16 psychologists in charge

On the decisive day, 26 August, 16 psychologists from the Munich company "Intelligenz System Transfer" arrived in Heidelberg. In lecture halls in the New University and the Heuscheuer building, they tested applicants in groups and immediately evaluated the results. A-level knowledge and specialist legal knowledge were not part of the test. "It was a classical intelligence test," said the vice-dean, who insisted on joining in and taking the test he had already passed 12 years earlier. He mentioned that he had frequently selected staff with the aid of the test. Gerrick von Hoyningen-Huene on his results: "I'd have been accepted."

The vice-dean is very happy with the outcome and describes the procedure as highly effective. "It is extremely rational, objective, legally water-tight. Also it has the advantage of being very quick. The results are there the same afternoon." A computer programme provided rankings for all the candidates, of whom 92 were finally admitted.

"Ultimately, this is a real turning-point," says dean Prof. Müller-Graff. "In fact, you could almost call it the start of a new era. We hope that the number of students who fall by the wayside will now drop." He called the new procedure very welcome and "one that we've been wanting for a long time." The Faculty will be running observation studies to see if the students selected by this new procedure really do achieve better results in their final exams. The University will then decide on whether and how the selection procedure could be extended.

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Prof. Dr. Gerrick von Hoyningen-Huene
phone: 06221/547451

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Updated: 29.09.2002


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