Students starting out in the world of academia seemed to be having problems with basic spelling and grammar. Many lack the ability to form a sentence, said Gerhard Wolf who took part in the survey.
”It is also a problem that some students lack the ability to formulate ideas and to write cohesive texts,” he said.
Wolf, who is based at the University of Bayreuth, was one of 135 humanities professors who took part in the survey which up until now had remained unpublished.
The language professor has called for universities to offer “prep courses” which could bring students up to scratch before entering higher education.
Secondary and tertiary education institutions should be more aware of what their students are learning, and how. This would mean putting more emphasis on comprehension and grammar, he said.
Successfully structuring an argumentative essay was proving too tricky for many students, said Wolf. Many students also appeared to have difficulty collecting their ideas and analysing them verbally.
Part of the problem was an ever decreasing vocabulary, he suggested, which limited the ability to formulate logical arguments.
Many professors said they often spotted phrases in essays which their students had obviously heard, but not understood, and were using incorrectly.
Lack of focussed concentration was another common problem, with professors reporting that ever more students were coming into lectures with the attitude that they could just look everything up on the internet later.
The damning results have sparked debate among German academics about the standard of teaching in the country's grammar schools.
The survey was initiated at a national meeting of philosophy professors last year. Over 135 professors from 62 German universities took part in the survey.