Wintersemester 2020/21: Leipzig and Saarbrücken with the highest NC quotas

In cooperation with the non-profit CHE, CHE Consult has presented the Numerus Clausus CHECK for the Wintersemester of 2020/21. The study shows that those who want to start studying in the coming winter semester still have a good chance of being accepted. The quota of admission to study programmes with a grade requirement has again fallen slightly. Only around 40 percent have a so-called Numerus Clausus, or NC for short.

The study has found that university courses, on average, in Berlin, Hamburg and the Saarland are more freuqently subject to admission restrictions. This is the result of the annual Numerus Clausus CHECK of the CHE Centre for Higher Education Development. Among the larger university cities, Leipzig and Saarbrücken have the highest NC rate.

In Berlin, Hamburg and Saarland, two out of three courses of study are currently subject to admission restrictions. Berlin has the highest quota in a comparison of the federal states with a share of 66.1 percent, followed by Hamburg and Saarland with quotas of 65.4 and 64.2 percent respectively. Prospective students have the lowest NC hurdles in Thuringia. Here, with a share of 19.4 percent, only one in every five degree programmes has admission restrictions.

A noticeable trend in this year’s Numerus Clausus CHECK is the divergent development of NC quotas in the federal states. While Bremen and Lower Saxony were able to reduce their NC quotas by 6.2 and 7.5 percentage points respectively, the proportion of courses of study with restricted admission in the Saarland rose from around half (56.8 percent) to around two thirds (65.4 percent). As a result of this divergence, overall, the nationwide proportion of degree programmes with restricted admissions changed only minimally. Compared to the previous year, the proportion fell by 0.1 percentage points to 40.6 percent.

“This year, many prospective students have faced exceptional conditions during their Abitur, owing to Corona. The fact that the Abitur grade is again irrelevant for almost 60 percent of all courses of study this year is certainly good and reassuring news,” CHE Managing Director Frank Ziegele said, summing up the results. Another positive aspect is that the number of courses of study with restricted admissions has fallen in comparison to the previous year, particularly in the federal states of Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen, which are popular with first-year students.

Clear differences persist when cities are compared. Prospective students in Giessen have the best chances for a place at university in university towns with more than 40,000 students. Here, first-year students can enrol in four out of five courses of study without any prerequisites. Leipzig and Saarbrücken, where around two thirds of all courses of study (65 percent) are NC-restricted, showcased the highest numbers of admission-restricted courses.

“It is always worthwhile for prospective students to look beyond their own immediate environment or the borders of the federal state in which they live. Often they are able to study the same course without a numerus clausus at universities in their close neighbourhood,” advises study author Cort-Denis Hachmeister. In Saarbrücken, for example, the NC quota is around 65 percent, but in the cities of Trier and Kaiserslautern, which are located about 60 kilometers away, it is only 8 percent.

Depending on the study subject, the type of university and type of degree, the numerus clausus quota varies greatly. In law, economics, social sciences and economics, about one in two courses of study nationwide is subject to admission restrictions. In mathematics and the natural sciences, on the other hand, more than 60 percent of the courses are open to all first-year students, regardless of their Abitur grade.

A lower proportion (37.2 percent) of degree courses at universities are subject to NC than those at universities of applied sciences (45 percent). Bachelor’s degree programs have a slightly higher NC rate of 42 percent than master’s degree programs (38.8 percent).

Due to the corona pandemic, the application deadline this year for study places allocated via the Foundation for University Admissions ( has been extended until August 20. The application portal has been open since 1 July. The universities are also extending the application and enrolment deadlines in some cases for courses of study which are NC-free or where admission is restricted locally. Prospective students should check the websites of the universities for up-to-date information on the deadlines.

The “CHECK – Numerus Clausus at German universities 2020/21” is based on the NC data of the Higher Education Compass of the German Rectors’ Conference for around 20,400 study programmes in the winter semester 2020/21 as well as corresponding data from previous years. The quotas oft he federal states were determined in relation to the state in which the university is located. In the case of location-based NC quotas, all degree programmes at the place of study are counted. This may result in smaller deviations between the state and local quotas in the federal (city) states. Federal state, type of higher education institution, type of degree and subject group served as analysis criteria for the authors Anna Gehlke, Cort-Denis Hachmeister and Lars Hüning.