Around 1,000 medical students in Germany left school without a university entrance qualification (Abitur). The possibility to apply for a place in medicine on the basis of professional experience in the healthcare sector has been around for quite some time. Since the beginning of the year, however, the situation for applicants without Abitur has improved significantly. This is because the admission procedures for studying medicine have changed. An information brochure published recently by the CHE Centre for Higher Education clarifies the main issues relating to the application process.

All public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) offering medicine or pharmacy in Germany now offer access to candidates without an academic university entrance qualification. However, there is a limited number of places available, which is why selective entry applies throughout the country. These degree programmes are very popular. In summer semester 2019, for example, there were on average eleven applicants per place for human medicine, six for dentistry and two for pharmacy.

The requirements for applying without Abitur are completion of vocational training in a relevant field – such as nursing, when applying for medicine – plus a minimum of three years’ professional experience.

The award criteria for prospective students with a vocational qualification are the same as those for all other applicants. The average grade stated on the vocational training certificate or the result of an entrance examination taken beforehand at university is taken into account instead of the Abitur examination grade.

When it comes to allocating places, this grade counts 30 per cent, the HEI’s own selection criteria 60 per cent, and the so-called “additional aptitude quota” 10 per cent. Applicants with proven practical knowledge can score highly in the latter element. Waiting times are also taken into consideration for a transitional period. In the case of non-traditional prospective students, the semesters or half-years since completing vocational training count as waiting time.

“The fact that 755 individuals without Abitur are currently studying human medicine, 194 dentistry and 205 pharmacy is testament to the capabilities of this group,” summarised Sigrun Nickel. “Armed with a good grade in a healthcare profession, practical experience, and allowance for professional practice as waiting time, applicants can benefit even more from the new application regulations,” explained the Head of Higher Education Research at the CHE Centre for Higher Education.

It remains to be seen, however, if and to what extent the changes actually make a difference to the figures.

CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele sees the new application procedure as an enhancement of academic and vocational training in healthcare as a whole. “The ultimate indicator of whether someone will turn out to be a good doctor or chemist should be their proven competence, and no longer just good Abitur examination grades. This factor is now taken into greater consideration in the new admission procedures, and ensures greater equality of opportunity,” remarked Ziegele.

Applications for next winter semester should be made via the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung website at It is now possible for the first time to apply simultaneously for a place in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy. In response to delays to Abitur examinations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the online application portal opens later than usual this year, on 1 July.

About the publication:

Each six-page edition of the “CHE kurz + kompakt” series provides answers to key questions regarding the issue at hand as well as an annotated list of links. Checklists for next steps and further research complete the information package, available in pdf format. The publication entitled “CHE kurz + kompakt – Studium ohne Abitur: Medizin und Pharmazie” (CHE brief + compact – Studying without Abitur: Medicine and Pharmacy) was written by Sigrun Nickel, Michaela Schrand and Jan Thiemann.

Publication only in German.


CHE kurz + kompakt – Studium ohne Abitur: Medizin und Pharmazie 14. March 2023 396.01 KB 131538 downloads

Nickel, Sigrun; Thiele, Anna-Lena; Thiemann, Jan: CHE kurz + kompakt – Studium...