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    What does Numerus clausus (NC) mean?  

    Universität Bielefeld

Numerus clausus (NC)

Numerus clausus and admission restrictions

The numerus clausus (Latin for closed number) determines admission capacities - i.e. the number of available study places - in degree programmes that are in particularly high demand. These study places then no longer have open admission (enrolment without preselection process), but are admission-restricted.

The university sets limits on course intake as a tool to underpin quality assurance and for effective planning. In many degree programmes, there are more applicants than places available. If there was no restriction on admission, then it would be open to all applicants with no preselection process. This could lead to difficult learning conditions in some sought after subjects.

By imposing admission restrictions, Bielefeld University ensures that it has sufficient capacity (teaching staff, premises and other resources) for its students. Students then, will be able to complete their studies under optimum conditions and within an appropriate timeframe.

Bielefeld University applies different criteria to admission-restricted Bachelor’s programmes or first legal examination (State Examination in Law) when selecting applicants as follows (for State Examination in Medicine please see Study Programme Information):

  • 20 per cent on the basis of the level of qualification (average Abitur grade),
  • 80 per cent according to the university's selection procedure (at Bielefeld University, the average Abitur grade is raised by 0.1 per semester of waiting time (semesters passed between obtaining the university entrance qualification and enrolment) - up to a maximum of 7 semesters of waiting time).

Example: An Abitur grade of 2.8 and 6 semesters of waiting semesters result in a ranking value of 2.2; an Abitur grade of 2.8 and 9 semesters of waiting semesters result in a ranking value of 2.1.

Information on the admission requirements for the Master’s Programme
Information on the admission requirements for the State Examination in Medicine

However, admission restriction only takes effect when the number of prospective applicants for a place exceeds the number of available places. In this case, the applicants are selected according to the defined criteria.

With regard to this criteria, the Numerus Clausus is commonly understood as the minimum average grade of the Abitur (or other school certificate) or number of waiting semesters which secured a candidate admission in any given intake.

In this sense, the NC value, is not something that is determined in advance by Bielefeld University, but is the outcome of the procedure once it has been completed. This is because the applicant who is awarded the last place determines the NC value with his or her average Abitur grade or waiting time as being the cut-off position in the ranking. The NC values of past enrolment procedures can therefore only be a guide, but they do not provide any reliable information about future application procedures (application and admission figures can change from year to year).


Bielefeld University would like encourage all prospective students to apply to their subject of choice and not be put off due to admission restrictions. In the past, there have always been subjects in which all applicants were admitted despite the numerus clausus. In addition, there is also the (additional) possibility to apply within the framework of the so-called lottery procedure. In this case, available study places are then allocated at random to the applicants who have registered for this lottery procedure.

Which courses of study­ are free of admission?

FAQs on the NC and the chances of admission (local NC)

Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide detailed information on your chances. We also do not provide information on rankings in the admission procedure or otherwise. For this reason, we kindly ask you to refrain from making such enquiries. However, you can use the results of the admission procedures (NC tables) of the previous semesters as a guide.

Up until the winter semester 2020/21, places were allocated according to three main quotas. 20 per cent of the study places were allocated according to the average grade of the Abitur (school leaving certificate), 20 percent according to the waiting period and 60 per cent according to the University’s selection procedure (at Bielefeld University this is also done according to the average grade of the Abitur).

From the summer semester 2021 onwards, 20 per cent of places at Bielefeld University will be awarded based on the acquired level of qualification (average Abitur grade) and 80 per cent according to the University's selection procedure (at Bielefeld University, the average Abitur grade will be raised by 0.1 per waiting semester – but up to a maximum of 7 waiting semesters). Attention: For the state examination in medicine, please see the programme information.

The NC table displays the outcome of the admission procedure and is separated out according to quotas. This shows the value of the last applicant admitted in the respective quota. However, this does not mean that all applicants with this value were admitted. The NC values are very much dependent on the number of applicants and the number of free places available. Since the NC values reflect the result of the admission procedure for the respective semester, they can only serve as a guide, and should not be relied upon to evaluate a student’s own chances in future admission procedures. 

Waiting semesters denote the half-yearly intervals that have elapsed since completing the Abitur during which an applicant is not enrolled at a German higher education institution and has thus “waited” for his/her future studies. The periods from 1 April to 30 September and from 1 October to 31 March are counted as half-yearly intervals.

As of the winter semester 2014/15, periods of study in part-time and distance learning programmes cannot be considered when calculating the waiting period. Because of this, persons who are enrolled on these types of courses can no longer accrue waiting time for the corresponding half-year. If a student was enrolled in part-time study or distance learning programmes before the winter semester 2014/15, then the waiting period will not be affected, due to the principle of legitimate expectations.

If you are interested in a highly sought-after and admission-restricted subject with previously high NC outcomes, we advise to apply in your subject to more than one university. Even if you are keen in the first instance to remain in your hometown or study in a specific location, for the sake of the subject, it still may make sense to consider moving to another location. In any case, it is advisable to think ahead and plan for other viable alternatives in case you do not get an offer in the subject you wish to study. This is especially important if you do not have a particularly good average grade in your school leaving certificate, and would like to study one of the more sought-after subjects.

With a bit of luck, you will still be able to obtain a place at a university in a clearing or lottery procedure. Once places have been allocated through the regular allocation procedure, the lottery procedure allocates any remaining places without taking the average grade or waiting period into consideration. Please refer to the information on the lottery procedure at Bielefeld University.

After the initial allocation procedure has ended, you can also expect to find a place through the nationwide Study-Place Exchange platform on the HKH Higher Education Compass website. This opens two times a year, normally in September for the winter semester or in March for the summer semester.

If you don't get the place you wanted and don’t wish to study another subject, it is important to stay calm and not let yourself be swayed too much by the fear of “losing” a year while you look for an alternative. This time can be used to revaluate your academic or career goals, and it’s not uncommon for other study interests or professional paths to emerge that are perhaps much more feasible to achieve than the subject initially chosen.

It is likely that you are familiar with the many alternatives to study: completing vocational training, attending a technical college, participate in a Voluntary Social Year (FDJ or social sector in Germany) or Voluntary Ecological Year (FÖJ or environmental sector in Germany) at home or abroad. Other alternatives include the Federal Volunteer Service or to find a job, either at home or abroad. Many students rate their time spent volunteering or completing an apprenticeship very positively in retrospect. Further information and addresses for contact points for alternatives to study can be found on the webpages of the Federal Employment Agency

If you are planning or are already engaged in voluntary or federal service, please refer to the application guidelines in the section: “voluntary service

Outcome of NC procedures at the local level

These tables show the overview of the NC values in the subjects with local admission restrictions taken from the allocation procedures of the last five winter and summer semesters. The values depend on the number of available study places and how many applicants with which grade average apply for the respective subject.

For this reason, values from previous procedures can only serve as a guide for the “level of qualification (average Abitur grade)” quota.

If study places are still available or become available again after expiry of the relevant deadlines, they will be awarded by a lottery procedure.

*NRV = clearing procedure

Since the allocation procedure of the summer semester 2021, the now valid allocation regulation NRW with a modified allocation scheme has been applied.


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