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Admission Limits (Numerus Clausus)

What is the admission limit/NC for my degree program at Freie Universität Berlin?

Admission limits (Numerus Clausus) and the admissions process

In order to provide a high level of education, institutions of higher education need to make sure that they possess the necessary capacities (faculty and staff, rooms and facilities, financial resources). Like other institutions of higher education in the region that receive a high number applications each year, Freie Universität Berlin has implemented admission limits (Numerus Clausus) for a number of undergraduate degree programs (e.g. Bachelor’s programs).

The Latin term Numerus Clausus stands for “restricted number” and means that the number of applicants admitted must not be (much) higher than the number of available places (as calculated by the respective university). To see whether a study program has restricted admission, look out for the phrase “lokale Zulassungsbeschränkung (local admission restriction)” in the program description.

To find out how many students can be enrolled for the first subject-specific semester of a particular undergraduate degree program, look at the respective program description, which you can find under Study Programs. For additional information, go to admission regulations at Freie Universität Berlin and look for the version that applies to your application.

Where and how do I apply?

For almost all study programs at Freie Universität Berlin, applicants who want to apply for the first subject-specific semester (Fachsemester) and possess a German Higher Education Entrance Qualification (Abitur), including those issued by German schools abroad, have to do so directly through the university’s Application and Admissions Office. Exceptions are the pharmacy and veterinary medicine programs, which are currently the only FU study programs for which Hochschulstart.de (located in Dortmund) processes applications. Applications for a small number of study programs also have to go through the Dialogue-oriented Service Procedure (DOSV).

The programs for medicine and dentistry are no longer affiliated with Freie Universität Berlin, but are part of Charité University Medicine Berlin (a joint institution of Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin).

Applicants with a foreign higher education entrance qualification (regardless of their citizenship) have to apply through uni-assist (in Berlin). Exceptions are the pharmacy and veterinary medicine programs: Applicants from the European Union and Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway also have to apply through Hochschulstart.de in Dortmund.

Admission Quotas: Not solely based on grades

Many people think that the NC is equivalent to the lowest higher education entrance qualification grade with which an applicant has been admitted to a study program. However, that is not how admission works.

In the state of Berlin, the total amount of possible placements into the first subject-specific semester of a program for which the respective university itself decides over admission is calculated using the following quotas: There are three main quotas and several advanced quotas. The legal basis for this procedure is §6 of the Higher Education Admission Act, and it applies to all of Freie Universität’s study programs with the exception of pharmacy and veterinary medicine since admission for both is managed by hochschulstart.de. Different admission regulations apply to separate modules, which are explained in more detail at Overview of admission limits for Bachelor’s programs/separate modules, undergraduate programs.

Advanced quotas apply to the following groups of applicants:

  • Eight percent of available places are reserved for non-EU and stateless applicants: Selection is based only on the average grade of their higher education entrance qualification.
  • Eight percent of available places are given to applicants who have professional qualifications but no Abitur. Within that quota, selection is based on the average grade of the higher education entrance qualification granted to them through their professional qualification (advanced continuing or professional education program/vocational school and training).
  • The grade of the higher education entrance qualification is of no relevance for applicants who fall under the hardship quota (three percent). An example for a special hardship case might be an applicant with health issues who will be unable to study later in the future if they are not admitted immediately.
  • Different regulations and another quota (three percent) apply to applicants who want to pursue a second undergraduate university degree.
  • At least five percent are given to underaged applicants who have to fulfill the following requirements: They must be under the age of eighteen by the time of the application deadline, and have to reside in Berlin or Brandenburg with a person holding custody. If, within that quota, there are more applicants than available places, selection is based on the grade of the higher education entrance qualification.
  • Two percent of available places is given to applicants whose sponsorship is deemed as of public interest and who are, due to special circumstances, bound to a certain location, such as applicants who belong to one of the German Olympic Sports Confederation’s athletic squads at one of the Olympic training centers in Berlin or Brandenburg

Military or civilian service, volunteer activities, and child care – not a disadvantage

Applicants who have received an offer for admission in an earlier semester but were unable to accept it due to some form of service are also given preferential admission since their service should not be an impediment to their educational career.

Eligible forms of services are:

  • Child care (under the age of 18) or care of another dependent relative,
  • Military service (Wehrdienst) including serving in the German Federal Border Force (Bundesgrenzschutz),
  • Civilian service (Zivildienst) including services abroad as in §14b of the Civilian Alternative Service Act (Zivildienstgesetz),
  • Voluntary Social or Ecological Year or European Voluntary Service,
  • Two-year service providing aid to developing countries (as an Entwicklungshelfer/Entwicklungshelferin).

The three main quotas

The three main quotas are important for German and EU applicants and applicants who have acquired their higher education entrance qualification in Germany, regardless of their citizenship (Bildungsinländer), and apply to both the university’s internal admission procedure and Hochschulstart.de.

The remaining places not reserved for the aforementioned advanced quota groups are filled following the Abiturbestenquote, i.e. applicants with the best higher education entrance qualification grades, and Wartezeitquote, applicants with the highest amount of accumulated wait semesters. The admission criteria within the selection process of institutions of higher education (Auswahlverfahren der Hochschulen, AdH) are set by the universities and institutions themselves according to the respective state law and their own requirements. Therefore, the AdH is not an additional application and admission procedure, but only one of several quotas.

Abiturbeste & wait time

After subtracting the places reserved for the advanced quota groups, twenty percent of the available places are for applicants with the highest higher education entrance qualification grade. In case applicants have the same grade, §16 of the Berlin Higher Education Admission Act specifies how to proceed.

In order for everyone to be able to study their desired subject, all applicants shall have the chance to be admitted through wait time. Therefore, around twenty percent of study places are to be filled with applicants with the highest amount of wait semesters. In case applicants have accumulated an equal amount of wait semesters, §16 of the Berlin Higher Education Admission Act specifies how to proceed.

Wait time is counted as follows: Starting on the day that the higher education entrance qualification was issued, every full semester (summer semester: April 1 – September 30; winter semester: October 1 – March 31) that follows is counted as half a year of wait time. Every semester that the applicant was enrolled at an institution of higher education within the EU (and Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway) will be subtracted. (Exception for the medical programs human medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and dentistry: As long as the applicant was not enrolled at a German institution of higher education, they will receive wait time). In most cases it is not important what an applicant has done during the time between receiving their higher education entrance qualification and the application; how many times and applicant has already applied does not influence the wait time calculation either. Regardless whether the semester was spent actually actively studying or only used to bridge the time – every semester enrolled at a university will be subtracted from your wait time and may also have an impact on how long you will receive financial aid (BAföG).

Institutions of Higher Education Selection Process (Auswahlverfahren der Hochschulen)

The remaining 60% – the majority – of the available study places are filled following criteria set by the universities themselves (Auswahlverfahren der Hochschulen/AdH quota).

In this segment, points are awarded for each of the three selection criteria described below, which are then used to calculate a point total following a mathematical formula:

  • Average Abitur grade
  • Advanced/honors courses (Leistungskurse) or certain subjects taken at the upper level of secondary education (in most cases, a minimum number of points must have been reached, or the student is required to have taken the subjects in question throughout the final four semesters of his or her schooling)
  • Vocational or professional training or employment relevant to the program for which the student is applying, or an internship (the duration of these activities is stated in the specific bylaws on allocation of study placements (Vergabesatzung)).

Applicants are admitted based on a point total calculated based on the existing selection criteria. The lower the point total, the better the applicant’s ranking. Applicants can improve their chances of admission by meeting these requirements, but doing so is not a prerequisite for submission of an application.

Within the segment of placements awarded according to the AdH, there are also admission criteria that apply to specific programs in addition to the average Abitur grade, such as tests of academic aptitude (pharmacy, veterinary medicine, medicine). 

Misconceptions about the NC (limited admissions) and chances of admission

There are a number of particularly stubborn rumors surrounding the Numerus Clausus, or limited admissions policy. The most widely held misconception about this practice is that the required grades are set in advance. Instead, the only figure set in advance is the number of available study placements. Who receives a study placement depends primarily on the number and quality of the competing applications. The grade limits published in the "NC table" always refer to past processes, never to future ones. As a result, their only value is as a rough guide – the future selection limits may be completely different.

Freie Universität Berlin currently stipulates minimum grades only for the programs in pharmacy and veterinary medicine, and only in the “higher education institution selection process” (Auswahlverfahren der Hochschulen, AdH) segment (quota) of the available study placements; these grades are required for applicants wishing to be considered in this process.

Another major misconception regarding limited admissions is that the applicant’s grades will improve based on the number of applications or wait time. An applicant’s average Abitur grade is not affected by either the number of applications or the wait time. In certain isolated cases, and only in those cases, an applicant can submit a well-founded “Application for Compensation for Disadvantages – Improvement of Average Grade,” which is the only way that an average grade can be raised. For this kind of request to be successful, the applicant is required to show that his or her average grade in school was much higher over a long period, before significantly deteriorating prior to the Abitur due to factors such as illness. This kind of application can also be submitted with an eye to improving the applicant’s wait time.

There are no waitlists beyond the specific process in which the student’s application is being considered. Wait time is also never determined in advance; it is always recalculated based on the current admissions process.

Special rules on admission to combination bachelor’s degree programs

A student cannot enroll in a combination bachelor’s degree program until the combination of the core subject and module(s) is complete, meaning that the student has been accepted into both the core subject and the module(s).

Waitlisted applicants (Nachrückverfahren) and lottery placement

Applicants who have not initially been admitted to their desired study program may be successful after all via the Nachrückverfahren, the process used by the university to fill vacancies with replacement candidates. This kind of process takes place automatically in any case in which applicants who have been admitted do not accept their study placements, which means those spots become available again. If applicants entered in the Nachrückverfahren then also do not accept their admission, leaving placements still available, those spots are finally awarded by lottery to applicants who have submitted a lottery application in due time prior to the start of the semester.

Lottery applications for these kinds of placements, whether they have become available again or are still available, can also be submitted if the student is already enrolled, if his or her application has been denied, or if the student has never applied before. The number of lottery applications is one. For combination bachelor’s degree programs, however, students can only enroll if they have been admitted to a complete combination (including admission via lottery), as mentioned above.

Language requirements

Before applying to study at Freie Universität Berlin, prospective students should obtain detailed information on the language skills that may be required.