More than a quarter of German students drop out of higher education before their final exams, according to a study by the Higher Education Information System.
The survey found that financial problems, poor student-professor relationships and a lack of motivation were the main reasons that one in four of Germany's 1.9 million students was breaking off studies early.
Some 300,000 Germans start university each year, but per cent of them drop out without completing their studies. The survey represents a stinging blow to the universities, particularly because many of the problems are the result of poor administration and teaching standards.
About 50 per cent of dropouts said their decision reflected a lack of motivation, financial difficulties or a change of heart over their chosen career.
Some 70 per cent of students who broke off studies blamed poor conditions at universities, although only 8 per cent said this was the main reason.
The report compiled by the HEIS, a non-profit organisation funded partly by the government and partly by the provinces, says students are also leaving it longer before dropping out, averaging 7.6 semesters rather than 6.5 as was the case in 1993.
Edelgard Bulmahn, Germany's education minister, acknowledged the problems and said they had to be tackled quickly. She said: "Those universities with high numbers of students not completing their degrees should be investigated, while those with low numbers should be heavily rewarded."