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News vom 21.06.2016

Winter semester 2016/17: highest proportion of degree programmes with a numerus clausus in Hamburg and Bremen

In many subjects, Abitur certificate holders must get past the numerus clausus (NC) before being able to start university. In the upcoming winter semester 2016/17, there are once again major differences in numerus clausus restrictions between the various federal states of Germany. This is the finding of an evaluation conducted by the CHE Centre for Higher Education, which also reports for the first time the proportion of degree programmes with a numerus clausus in Germany’s most popular university cities.

Germany’s federal states with the highest proportion of numerus clausus subjects, i.e. the proportion of degree programmes subject to restricted admission, are the two city-states of Hamburg (72.3 per cent) and Bremen (60.8 per cent). The lowest proportion of NC subjects can be found in Rhineland-Palatinate (23 per cent) and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (23.6 per cent). In these federal states, more than three-quarters of all degree programmes offered are open to students without any admission restrictions. The national proportion of numerus clausus subjects fell slightly by 0.5 percentage points to 41.5 per cent compared to the previous year. Prospective students in Bremen and Bavaria benefited most from this development. In both these federal states, the proportion of degree programmes subject to NC decreased by around 4 percentage points.

CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele explained this development: “Over the past four years, the national proportion of degree programmes with a numerus clausus fell by four percentage points. This is a sign that the higher education institutions have, as a whole, adapted better to the student boom.” However, the differences at the federal state and subject level, which are very considerable in some cases, show a very heterogeneous picture with regard to supply and demand.

For example, over half of degree programmes in Law, Economics & Social Sciences in Germany are subject to NC. In the Languages & Cultural Sciences group of subjects, however, almost 70 per cent of all degree programmes are open to prospective students regardless of the grades they gained.

These subject-specific differences are even more significant at the federal state level. For instance, the proportion of NC subjects in the Languages & Cultural Sciences group is 6.9 per cent in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, as opposed to 94.2 per cent in Hamburg.

Altogether, there is a smaller proportion of degree programmes subject to NC at universities (40.1 per cent) than at universities of applied sciences (45.8 per cent). For Bachelor programmes starting next winter semester, the national proportion is 47.6 per cent. Only around one in three Master’s programmes (35.5 per cent) is subject to restricted admission.

For the first time, CHE also investigated the proportion of NC subjects for university cities with a student population of more than 30,000. It was found that not only the city-states of Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin have a high proportion of degree programmes subject to NC; the situation was similar in other large cities, too, such as Cologne (66.3 per cent), Bochum (59.5 per cent), Karlsruhe (59.7 per cent) and Hannover (72.1 per cent). In contrast, only 17.4 per cent of degree programmes offered in Würzburg are subject to NC.

These large differences at the local and regional level are just one reason why CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele believes there is a great need for information and transparency: “Year after year, the topic of numerus clausus creates considerable uncertainty among many prospective students. Both the sometimes very complex selection/calculation procedures and the huge regional differences concerning the proportion of NC subjects are anything but self-explanatory. It may be helpful to provide extensive advisory services at schools at an early stage.” Such information service could ease the situation for many prospective students. After all, depending on the federal state concerned, there are often only a few weeks between the time when school leavers receive their Abitur certificate and the enrolment deadline for courses subject to admissions restrictions – namely 15 July.

About the “CHE Numerus Clausus Check 2016/17” The “CHE Numerus Clausus Check 2016/17” was based on NC data contained in the Higher Education Compass of the German Rectors’ Conference for around 18,000 degree programmes in winter semester 2016/17, as well as relevant data from previous years. The federal state, type of higher education institution, degree type and group of subjects were used as criteria for the analysis conducted by the team of authors Cort-Denis Hachmeister, Ronny Röwert, Lisa de Vries and Valeriia Gvozdenko.

More information for prospective students The publication entitled “Im Blickpunkt: Der Numerus Clausus” (Focus on numerus clausus) was released in parallel to the “CHE Numerus Clausus Check 2016/17”. This brochure, directed at prospective students, provides answers to the main questions surrounding numerus clausus. In addition, another publication entitled “(Wie) komme ich an einen Studienplatz?” ((How) Can I get a place at university?) uses specific examples to show how the admission procedure functions in certain subjects, and how school leavers can calculate and assess their chances of obtaining a place on their chosen programme.


Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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Cort-Denis Hachmeistermehr
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