Studierende zum Semesterstart im FU-Hauptgebäude an der Freien Universität Berlin in Berlin-Dahlem. Foto: Thilo Rückeis

Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren across Germany are now receiving their Abitur certificate – and the vast majority of them are looking for a place at university. The new numerus clausus evaluation by the Center for Higher Education Development (CHE) shows how difficult this can be in Berlin, where the vast majority of those born here want to stay to study and where many young people from all over Germany and abroad would like to study.

In Berlin, around 61 percent of the courses on offer have restricted admission, which means that high school graduates and other applicants have to apply to two out of three courses with their Abitur grade and other criteria.

Berlin is thus in third place for the highest NC quotas – after Hamburg with 65 percent for courses with admission restrictions and Saarland with 64 percent. In Hamburg and Berlin, the NC quotas fell slightly compared to the previous year by one percentage point each. But in many other federal states and medium-sized study cities, the chances of finding free places in popular subjects are much higher.

Brandenburg has the third lowest NC rate with a good quarter of subjects with restricted admission, in Rhineland-Palatinate it is only around 24 percent and in Thuringia a good 20 percent. The NC rate has fallen again across Germany and is currently at almost 40 percent, the CHE reports.

The fact that more than half of all courses are open to prospective students of the current Abitur year without restrictions speaks “for the prudent planning of universities and politics”, explains CHE Managing Director Frank Ziegele. Despite the consistently high number of students, the NC rate for bachelor’s courses has fallen by more than eleven percentage points since 2013.

The expert for university admission at the CHE, Cort-Denis Hachmeister, advises what course advisors in Berlin also recommend again and again: “If the desired course of study at your favorite university has a numerus clausus, it’s always worth looking at other universities. There are often equivalent courses without admission restrictions.

With the exception of the few university subjects with nationwide admission restrictions, such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and pharmacy, as well as psychology, there is “practically always an alternative course of study without admission restrictions at a state university”.

The NC rate varies not only depending on the place of study, but also depending on the subject: Nationwide, every second place in law, economics, social sciences and social sciences has admission restrictions, while in engineering around two thirds of the offers are open to all first-semester students regardless of their Abitur grade open.

What may come as a surprise to many: On average, it is somewhat easier to get a place at a university (NC rate: 37 percent) than at a university of applied sciences or a technical college (a good 41 percent).