Numerus Clausus

MUDr. Andreas Zehetner

MUDr. Andreas Zehetner

CO-Founder of futuredoctor

Reading time: 4 Minuten
Last updated: 23 April 2024

☝️ The most important facts in brief

  • The numerus clausus is an admission restriction for degree programmes at universities where there are more applicants than available places.
  • This affects subjects such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine. Here, demand far exceeds the number of places available.
  • The NC is defined as the Abitur grade of the last admitted applicant at the end of the selection procedure.
  • Places in admission-restricted subjects are allocated centrally via the Foundation for University Admissions and its online portal Hochschulstart.

📖 Table of contents

The Numerus Clausus (NC) refers to the Abitur grade of the applicant who was awarded the last available place on a degree programme in a selection procedure. The Latin term means "closed number", which describes the fact that there are not enough places available for all applicants for the degree programmes in question.

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Fewer degree programmes with numerus clausus overall

Over the past ten years, the situation for first-year students in Germany has changed significantly, as confirmed by the CHE Centre for Higher Education Development, which publishes the annual CHECK - Numerus clausus for the winter and summer semesters, broken down by federal state, degree level, type of higher education institution and other criteria.

Between the winter semester 2013/14 and the winter semester 2023/24, the numerus clausus rate fell from 45.5 % to 37.9 %. According to Cort-Denis Hachmeister, an expert at CHE Consult, this decline reflects the increasing number of degree programmes and the falling number of first-semester students. This allows universities to relax admission restrictions, which is certainly desirable in view of the shortage of skilled labour.

However, there is little evidence of this in the medical degree programmes. You still have to have a very good Abitur to be successful in your application for a place on a degree programme.

The NC values for the current semester are not fixed in advance

The exact Abitur grade required for admission to a particular degree programme can only be announced after the application process has been completed. After all, it is not clear in advance how many applicants there are in the semester in question and what result they achieved in the Abitur examination.

Even if the exact value of the NC for the current year is not known, you can use the data from previous years to get a rough idea of how good your A-levels need to be to get the university place you want.

The NC is not the only selection criterion

In addition to the Abitur grade, there are several other criteria that determine your admission to a particular degree programme. Ultimately, the NC is just a number that tells you how good your A-levels must be if you have no other special qualifications.

If you are applying for medical study places, it makes sense to take the "Test for medical degree programmes" (TMS) and submit the results together with your other documents to the Foundation for University Admissions (Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung), which is responsible for allocating study places, by the application deadline. Good results increase your chances of being admitted to the desired degree programme. A poor result, on the other hand, will not be included in your assessment.

A completed apprenticeship can improve your chances for many degree programmes

In addition to the NC, the universities' internal selection procedures play an important role in the allocation of study places. In addition to tests such as the TMS, professional experience also plays a significant role here. For example, trained nurses have a much better chance of gaining a place to study medicine, as they already have a great deal of knowledge in this field and have a comprehensive picture of the medical profession.

Does the NC say anything about the quality of the university in question?

It is particularly difficult to get a place at certain universities, as they are very popular and many applicants state the university in question as their preferred place of study.

However, to conclude directly from this fact that the quality of education at these universities is particularly high and that your degree will have a correspondingly greater value after graduation would be too ill-conceived. The universities in question certainly offer high-quality study programmes. However, the high number of applicants can often also be explained by the fact that the location is particularly popular.

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