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Numerus Clausus Explained: NC and Non-NC Courses in Germany

Numerus Clausus Explained: NC and Non-NC Courses in Germany
Amarnath pratapwarOct 3, 2022

If you’re planning to study in Germany, you may have come across “Numerus Clausus.” This Latin-derived term may seem confusing to international students unfamiliar with German university admissions. Read this article to learn about NC and non-NC courses in Germany.

What is Numerus Clausus?

Numerus Clausus (NC) refers to a restriction on university admissions in Germany. This restriction is placed when the number of applicants exceeds the number of available places at a university.

NC is usually misunderstood to be a limit. But in reality, numerus clausus can also be referred to as a cut-off score or grade. The NC is applied retrospectively. It comes into the picture after all applications have been received. If the applications exceed the places available, only the best applicants are accepted. An average grade is determined from the applications received. This grade is the minimum applicants must achieve to be admitted.

The lower the NC of a German university or a program, the more selective it is. For example, if a program at a university has an NC of 1.9, it means that the admitted student with the lowest GPA in the previous semester had a GPA of 1.9. Thus, prospective students should check the NC for previous semesters to check if they have a chance of being accepted.

The numerus clausus acts only as a guide as the average grade fluctuates every semester. German universities also have NC Frei (NC free) courses, where there is no restriction for the number of seats available for a particular degree program.

Types of Numerus Clausus

Numerus Clausus can be categorized into two: local and national.

Local Restriction

A local numerus clausus is limited to one higher education institution. That is, it is specifically limited to one subject at one German university. These are commonly referred to as NC degree programs. The average grade may not be the only criterion for selecting applicants. German universities, generally, specify other admission criteria. These criteria can include motivation letters, entrance tests, or interviews. The admission criteria differ for each higher education institution and between study programs. Other subjects at the same university may carry a different NC. 

National Restriction

The national NC applies to a subject across all of Germany. This type of NC applies to popular and oversubscribed programs. Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Veterinary all come under this category. Applications for such programs are done through Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung (Foundation for University Admissions).

Courses with national NC are very competitive and difficult to get into. Students should ensure timely application and proactive participation throughout the admission process and allocation of seats.

Which courses have Numerus Clausus?

The “Higher Education Compass” portal by the German Rectors’ Conference allows one to sort through study programs in Germany based on admission restrictions. According to the database, currently, 95 programs in Germany have a nationwide admission restriction. These 95 programs belong to the following subject groups.

  • Dentistry
  • Medicine/Human Medicine
  • Pharmacy
  • Veterinary Medicine

Additionally, there are currently 6,013 programs with local NC. The range of subjects is diverse and varies with each university.

Accounting and finance,

  • Biology,
  • Geography,
  • Geography,
  • Law,
  • Philosophy,
  • Sociology,
  • and many more.

Students are advised to check before applying whether their intended study program has NC.

Non-NC courses in Germany

Both public and private universities in Germany offer non-NC courses. It is essential to note that NC is usually only restricted to state-funded or public universities in Germany. That means the NC does not apply to private universities. There are about 11,200 non-NC study programs at public universities in Germany and 2,047 non-NC courses at private universities, some of which have an entrance examination.

Some non-NC degrees at private universities include

  • B.A. Business Administration
  • BSc. Computer Science
  • MSc. Data Science
  • B.Eng Industrial Engineering
  • M.A Social Work
  • M.A. Marketing and Sales Management
  • MSc Psychology

This list is not exhaustive. Programs from several other disciplines are available without any admission restrictions.

Do English-taught programs in Germany have Numerus Clausus?

As can be observed from the table below, there are, currently, a total of 932 English-taught programs in Germany without numerus clausus. 162 of them belong to private universities, and 770 are at state-funded universities. 549 English-taught programs at public universities have local NC. 404 programs have an entrance examination/interview as part of the admission process.

Type of University With Local NC With National NC With No NC With Qualifying examination
No. of programs at Private Universities N.A N.A 162 180
No. of programs at State-funded Universities 549 N.A 770 224

Does Numerus Clausus apply to international students?

Yes. The admission restriction applies to international students as well. There are 549 English-taught international courses in Germany without the NC. All private universities which accept international applications do not have NC.

How to check for NC and non-NC courses in Germany?

International students can access Hochschulkompass to search the database for NC and non-NC courses in Germany. Students can also contact Gyanberry to gain a comprehensive understanding of the German admission process. With Gyanberry, you can shortlist German universities that match your profile. This can significantly increase your chances of being accepted into your preferred study program. Contact Gyanberry to know more about studying in Germany.

Popular universities with non-NC courses in Germany

There are many private universities in Germany that provide world-class education at affordable costs. Without NC at these universities, international students can be assured of their place in the program. Some of these universities include the following.


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Numerus Clausus is the restriction on university admissions in Germany. It is the lowest average grade of the accepted student in the last semester of a program. The NC is applied when the number of applications exceeds the number of available places.

Yes. There are many programs in Germany that do not have numerous clausus. Many of these programs are offered by private universities. A university may have other admission criteria apart from NC, such as a motivation letter, CV, entrance exam, etc.

Some English-taught programs at public universities are subject to local numerus clausus. English-taught study programs at private universities in Germany do not have NC.

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