Numerus Clausus

At German universities, admission to most subjects is unrestricted (“ohne Numerus clausus”) or only locally restricted (“lokaler Numerus clausus”). That means that some universities have unlimited admission to a particular subject whereas others offer a set number of places. This is the case for subjects such as French literature, physics or political sciences, for example. “Numerus clausus” is Latin for “restricted number”. 

If you want to become a doctor, pharmacist, veterinary doctor or dentist, you have to follow a different process. Admission to these four subjects is centrally restricted (“zentraler Numerus clausus”) which means that there are a lot more applicants than places. Whether you will be selected or not, largely depends on your high school marks. It is possible to be put on a waiting list (“Warteliste”) if your application is rejected.

Unrestricted Subjects (“ohne NC”)

A lot of undergraduate study programmes in Germany don’t have any admission restrictions. That means that you only need a higher education certificate from your country of origin, in addition to a German language certificate, to enrol in a specific study programme. You will have to apply directly to the university itself, so make sure you check the deadlines before you start assembling your documents.

If the university you have chosen is on the list of the application service uni-assist, you have to send your application through their website. If you are unsure about which documents to submit, you can contact the student advisory service (“Studentenwerk”) or the International Office (“Akademisches Auslandsamt”) of the university you wish to apply to. 

Locally Restricted Subjects (“lokaler NC”)

If the subject of your choice is locally restricted, that means that a university is imposing certain selection criteria on all applicants. In most cases, these criteria rely heavily on high school marks, but they can also include performance in interviews or assessment tests, proof of practical experience or personal motivation. The selection criteria will be different depending on the subject and the institution in question.

If you want to apply for a study programme in a locally restricted subject, you have to do so via the online platform of the Trust for Admission to Higher Education (“Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung”) if the university in question is using this platform. Once you have registered with them, you can submit your application and monitor its status. If the university you have chosen is a member of uni-assist, you have to send your application through their website.

If the university you wish to apply to is not using either of these two systems, you have to follow their internal admission process. If you are unsure about how to submit your documents, you can contact the student advisory service (“Studentenwerk”) or the International Office (“Akademisches Auslandsamt”).

Nationally restricted Subjects (“zentraler NC”)

If you want to study medicine, pharmacy, dentistry or veterinary medicine, you have to follow the admission procedure for nationally restricted subjects. The criteria are very strict and unless your high school marks are clearly above average, it will be difficult to be admitted. Apart from your marks, other criteria are important as well, particularly waiting time. If you weren’t allocated a study spot and wait for six months to apply again at the next deadline, this waiting time will count in your favour. Please note that the six months only count as waiting time if you didn’t enrol in another subject at another university in the meantime. 

As with locally restricted subjects, you will have to apply via the online portal of the Trust for Admission to Higher Education (“Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung”). Once you have registered with them, you can submit your application and monitor its status. If the university you have chosen is a member of uni-assist, you have to send your application through their website.

Guest Student

Most German universities have a programme for guest students (“Gasthörer”). As a guest student, you don’t need to follow any of the application procedures above, but can enrol directly at the university you wish to attend. At most institutions, you won’t need to submit any documents, but only have to fill out a form and pay the guest student fee.

Please note that as a guest student, you will not be allowed to follow all lectures and courses nor will you be able to take any exams at the end of a semester. This means that you won’t receive any degrees or certificates. If you are planning to study at a German university, enrolling as a guest student only makes sense if you want to familiarise yourself with the university system, improve your German skills or pass time until the next official application deadline. If you are unsure about what subject you want to study, enrolling as a guest student might be a useful option, too.