While 80 per cent of German students have chosen to leave home and live in digs or student accommodation, most still apply to their home town university as their first study choice, according to a survey by the Centre for Higher Education.
Detlef Muller-Boling, head of the CHE, blamed the "outdated" allocation of study places by the Central Office for Allocating Admissions (ZVS) for the lack of student mobility.
The admissions criteria mean a student has a much higher chance of being accepted on a degree course in his or her home town than elsewhere. More than 82 per cent of study places are awarded according to regional criteria. Only 18 per cent are awarded according to the grade of the Abitur, the school-leaving certificate and university entrance qualification.
Professor Müller-Böling said a Gottingen school leaver needed an Abitur grade of 1.2 (A+) to study psychology at Berlin Technical University, while a Berliner needed only 2.1 (B+) for the same place.
"If 80 per cent of students no longer live at home, the regional criterion is not only outdated, it is unfair," he said.
Critics said the system compounded the mediocrity that was built into the German education system, and that it reinforced the dropout rate of 33 per cent.
Some want to abolish the ZVS and allow universities to select students. They claimed this was the main reason why Germany's mushrooming private universities had become so competitive.
Professor Müller-Böling wants students to be able to apply directly to the universities and for the ZVS to act only as a final clearing system.
The Conference of University Rectors agreed that universities should have the right to select most of their students.