Numerus clausus ("closed number" in Latin) is one of many methods used
to limit the number of students who may study at a university. In many
cases, the goal of the numerus clausus is simply to limit the number
of students to the maximum feasible in some particularly sought-after
areas of studies. In historical terms however, in some counties,
numerus clausus policies were religious or racial quotas, both in
intent and function.
1 Modern use
1.1 Selected examples
1.1.7 United States
2 Historical use
2.1 Selected examples
2.1.5 United States
3 As related to matters other than education
4 See also
For historical use, see section below
The numerus clausus is used in countries and universities where the
number of applicants greatly exceeds the number of available places
for students. This is the case in many countries of continental
Europe. Students in much of Europe choose their field of
specialization when they begin university study, unlike students in
North America, who specialize later. Fields such as medicine, law,
biology, dentistry, pharmacology, psychology and business
administration are particularly popular and therefore harder to gain
admittance to study.
Main article: Vestibular exam § Racial quotas
In November 2002 the Brazilian government passed Federal Law
10.558/2002, known as the "Quota Law". The law allowed for the
establishment of racial quotas at public universities. In 2012 the
Supreme Federal Court
Supreme Federal Court of Brazil unanimously upheld the law.
Further information: Education in Germany § Admission
The numerus clausus is used in Germany to address overcrowding at
universities. There are local admission restrictions, which are set up
for a particular degree program (Studiengang) at the university's
discretion, and nationwide admission restrictions in medicine,
dentistry, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy. Not all degree
programs restrict admissions. The most common admission criterion
is the final grade of the university entrance qualification, that is
the high school completion certificate formally allowing the applicant
to study at a German university. Typically, this is the Abitur. The
final grade takes into account the grades of the final exams as well
as the course grades. In colloquial usage, numerus clausus may also
refer to the lowest admitted grade in this process. Other criteria,
e.g. interviews, are increasingly common as well.
The Finnish system of implementing the numerus clausus provides a
comparison to the German model. In Germany, the main weight of the
student selection lies on the
Abitur grades (i.e. high school
diploma). In Finland, which has a similar nationwide final exam, the
matriculation examination (Finnish ylioppilastutkinto), the majority
of student selections are based on entrance exams. Most degree
programs consist of a single major subject and have their own entrance
procedures. Nearly all programs have a quota in which the score is
calculated solely on the basis of the entrance exam. The written exams
usually consist of open-ended questions requiring the applicant to
write an essay or solve problems. Multiple choice tests are
In fields where the competition for study places is less fierce. This
is especially the case with the engineering and natural science
programs. It is relatively easy to be accepted in these fields—about
one-third of the study places in technology are awarded on the basis
of the matriculation exam. The rest of the students are admitted on
the basis of an entrance exam. After receiving a study place, the
student must accept it in writing on the pain of forfeiting the place.
In case the students receive more than one study place, they must
select one. During the year, one person may accept only a single study
place in an institution of higher education. The system is enforced
through a national database on student admissions.
In the Finnish system, the numerus clausus is the most important
factor limiting student numbers. After gaining entrance, traditionally
a student cannot be expelled, pays no tuition, and enjoys a state
student benefit. The new legislation, introduced in the summer of
2005, limits the study period to seven years, but it is anticipated
that it will be relatively easy to receive a permission for a longer
study time. No changes to the financial position of the student are
currently being considered (as of the summer of 2005).
In France, admission to the grandes écoles is obtained by competitive
exams with a fixed, limited number of positions each year. Also, at
the end of the first year of medical studies in universities, there is
a competitive exam with a numerus clausus for determining which
students are allowed to proceed to the second year; in later years of
medical studies there is a competitive exam (concours de l'internat)
for choosing medical specialties.
Numerus clausus is also used in Ireland.
University College Dublin
uses the system in its admission for Medicine and Veterinary
The introduction of the numerus clausus in Switzerland has limited the
access to the medical studies at the universities. At all universities
of the German-speaking part of Switzerland, the students need to have
a high score on an aptitude test that comprises logical and spatial
thinking and text understanding skills.
The universities in the western, French-speaking part of Switzerland
did not decide to introduce a numerus clausus. Instead, these
universities provide unrestricted access to the first-year curriculum
in medicine; and the best first-year students are allowed to further
their medical studies at the same or at another university. In other
popular faculties like psychology or journalism, there are also
aptitude tests—but they concern only a single university.
Starting in the 1980s, and ongoing as of 2017[update], there have been
allegations of an
Asian quota in college admissions, analogous to the
Before World War II, the limitations in the number of students of
Jewish origin in many countries were usually resulting from their
disproportionate numbers in the national universities. This limitation
took the form of quotas restricting the number of
Jewish students so
that their share in the student population would correspond with their
share in the general population. The limitations in enrolment were
introduced in over a dozen countries, allowing access to higher
education to a greater proportion of non-
Countries legislating limitations on the admission of
at various times, have included: Austria, Canada, Hungary, Imperial
Latvia (from 1934 under
Kārlis Ulmanis regime),
Netherlands, Poland, Romania, United States, Vichy France, and
Yugoslavia among others.
Certain Canadian universities had longstanding quotas on the number of
Jews admitted to the respective universities. McGill University's
strict quota was the longest, being officially adopted in 1920 up
until the late 1960s.
A whole series of numerus clausus resolutions were adopted in 1929 on
the grounds of race and place of origin, not religion. On 25 April
Nazi government introduced a 1.5 percent quota for new
admissions of German non-Aryans, essentially of German Jews enrolling
to German high-schools and universities.
The Hungarian numerus clausus was introduced in 1920. The law formally
placed limits on the number of minority students at university, and
legalized corporal punishment. Though the text did not use the term
Jew, it was nearly the only group overrepresented in higher education.
The policy is often seen as the first Anti-
Jewish Act of twentieth
Its aim was to restrict the number of Jews to 6 percent, which was
their proportion in
Hungary at that time; the rate of
was approximately 15% in the 1910s. In 1928 – also because of
the pressure of liberal capital and League of Nations – the act was
modified and the passage of the ethnicity quota had been
eliminated. In the period of 1938–1945 the anti-
Jewish acts were
revitalised and eventually much worsened, partly due to German Nazi
pressure, and in hope of revising the
Treaty of Trianon
Treaty of Trianon with the help
See also: Ghetto benches
Numerus clausus in interwar
Poland was unofficially introduced in 1937
by some universities. It was a result of highly disproportionate
Jewish students in key disciplines including 62.9 percent in
stomatology, 34 percent in medical sciences, 29.2 percent in
philosophy, 24.9 percent in chemistry and 22.1 percent in law (26
percent by 1929). Such numbers were the cause of a backlash at most
Polish universities, with notable protest organized by the non-Jewish
During the partitions of
Poland by the neighbouring empires, Poles
were denied education, and the severely limited number of schools were
poorly funded. Following Poland's return to independence, the
advocates of the numerus clausus policy pointed out that the limit
would balance the chance to enter university of all nationalities in
Poland (Polish, Lithuanian, Belorussian, Ukrainian, German etc.). The
other reason given by the supporters of the idea was that it was an
attempt to equal the chance of children from countryside families who
had very limited access to education to the chance of the children of
Jewish families living in the towns and cities. After World War II
similar policies were introduced by the pro-Soviet communists, based
on preferential treatment of peasant and working-class children. The
students from working-class families were intended to form the new
Between 1918 and the 1950s a number of private universities and
medical schools in the
United States introduced numerus clausus
policies limiting admissions of students based on their religion or
race to certain percentages within the college population. Many
minority groups were negatively impacted by these policies; one of the
groups affected was
Jewish applicants, whose admission to some New
England- and New York City-area liberal arts colleges fell
significantly between the late 1910s and the mid-1930s. For
instance, the admission to
University during that period fell
from 27.6% to 17.1% and in Columbia
University from 32.7% to 14.6%.
Corresponding quotas were introduced in the medical and dental schools
resulting during the 1930s in the decline of
Jewish students: e.g. in
University School of Medicine from 40% in 1918–22 to 3.57%
in 1940–41, in Boston
University Medical School from 48.4% in
1929–30 to 12.5% in 1934–35. At Yale University, Dean Milton
Winternitz's instructions to the admissions office regarding ethnic
quotas were very specific: "Never admit more than five Jews, take only
two Italian Catholics, and take no blacks at all." During this
period, a notable exception among U. S. medical schools was the
medical school of Middlesex University, which had no quotas and many
Jewish faculty members and students; school officials believed that
antisemitism played a role in the school's failure to secure AMA
The most common method, employed by 90% of American universities and
colleges at the time to identify the "desirable" (native-born, white,
Protestant) applicants, was the application form questions about their
religious preference, race, and nationality. Other more subtle methods
included restrictions on scholarships, rejection of transfer students,
and preferences for alumni sons and daughters.
Legacy preference for university admissions was devised in 1925 at
Yale University, where the proportional number of Jews in the student
body was growing at a rate that became alarming to the school's
administrators. Prior to that year, Yale had begun to incorporate
such amorphous criteria as 'character' and 'solidity', as well as
'physical characteristics', into its admissions process as an excuse
for screening out
Jewish students; but nothing was as effective as
legacy preference, which allowed the admissions board to summarily
pass over Jews in favor of 'Yale sons of good character and reasonably
good record', as a 1929 memo phrased it. Other schools, including
Harvard, soon began to pursue similar policies for similar reasons,
Jewish students in the
Ivy League schools were maintained at a
steady 10% through the 1950s. Such policies were gradually discarded
during the early 1960s, with Yale being one of the last of the major
schools to eliminate the last vestige with the class of 1970 (entering
in 1966). While legacy admissions as a way of screening out Jewish
students may have ceased, the practice of giving preference to
legacies has continued to the present day. In the 1998 book The Shape
of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College
University Admissions, authors William G. Bowen, former Princeton
University president, and Derek Bok, former
president, found "the overall admission rate for legacies was almost
twice that for all other candidates".
The religion preference question was eventually dropped from the
admission application forms and noticeable evidence of informal
numerus clausus policies in the American private universities and
medical schools decreased by the 1950s.
As related to matters other than education
Numerus clausus is also a rule that regulates the number of
practitioners of a public service in many areas. In the U.S., for
instance, it can limit the number of liquor stores to be found in a
given geographic area.
In France, it limits the distribution of public notaries
geographically and, in effect, limits competition for their services
(since their fees are fixed by the state). Notaries handle, for
instance, title transactions, which is not allowed to lawyers in
France. Similar limitations apply to pharmacists, and to licensed
premises for the consumption of strong alcoholic beverages.
In India the system of caste quotas for job placement is enforced,
and vigorously defended by strikes and riots.
Often, the rule is administered by the corporation or professional
body to which the public servant must adhere, but it is also employed
by state entities that have the responsibility for assuring the
uniformity of a public service across a national geography.
Numerus clausus (law)
Numerus clausus is also used in law, property law in particular, as
the principle that the system of estates allows only a limited
number of property rights available in a legal system. The numerus
clausus principle has its roots in Roman law. In German law the
numerus clausus principle has a constitutional foundation and
limits property rights in their number (Typenzwang) and content
(Typenfixierung). Other European states show equal doctrines.
^ Brazil's Supreme Court upholds affirmative action in universities,
KAREN JUANITA CARRILLO
Special to the AmNews 5/16/2012, 6:04 p.m.,
^ "Local admission restrictions". hochschulkompass.de. German Rectors'
Conference. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
^ "National admission restrictions". hochschulkompass.de. German
Rectors' Conference. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
^ "No admission restrictions". hochschulkompass.de. German Rectors'
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^ "Auswahlverfahren der Universitäten: Studenten in der Testmühle"
(in German). Wirtschaftswoche. 13 March 2009. Retrieved
^ Numerus Clausus. A system of Numerus Clausus (restricted entry) is
in use at all institutions of higher education in Finland.
^ M. Huguier, P. Romestaing (October 2014),
Numerus clausus and
medical demographics in France.
^ EDge Interactive Publishing, Inc. "A Level/GCE Applicant". Retrieved
17 March 2016.
^ Eignungstest für das Medizinstudium (Switzerland). Numerus Clausus
for Medical Studies in Switzerland and Germany.
^ Lemann, Nicholas (June 25, 1996). "Jews in Second Place". Slate.
Retrieved 2017-08-03. Just at the moment when Harvard, Yale, and
Princeton have presidents named Rudenstine, Levin, and Shapiro, those
institutions are widely suspected of having informal ceilings on Asian
admissions, of the kind that were imposed on Jews two generations
^ Unz, Ron (November 28, 2012). "The Myth of American Meritocracy".
The American Conservative. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
^ "Sytuacja prawna Żydów w Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej 1918–1939 -
Żydowski Instytut Historyczny". www.jhi.pl. Retrieved
^ Freidenreich, Harriet Pass (1979) The Jews of Yugoslavia: A Quest
for Community. Philadelphia:
Jewish Publication Society of America.
"On Oct 5, 1940 the Royal Government in
Serbia issued Two anti-Jewish
decrees restricting them from producing or distributing food; and the
other a numerous clausus law restricting enrollment in universities
and high schools."
^ Gerald Tulchinsky, Canada's Jews: A People's Journey, Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 2008, pp. 132-133, 319-321, 410.
^ JTA Bulletin (1931-3-17), Berlin: The growing numerus clausus peril
in Germany. Page 4.
^ Gesetz gegen die Überfüllung deutscher Schulen und Hochschulen
(RGBl 1933 I, S. 225) (original German text of the Law against the
Overcrowding of German Schools and Universities, introduced in 1933).
Erste Verordnung zur Durchführung des Gesetzes gegen die
Überfüllung deutscher Schulen und Hochschulen (RGBl 1933 I, S. 226)
(original German text of the First Regulation for the Implementation
of the Law against the Overcrowding of German Schools and
Universities, introduced in 1933).
^ Péter Tibor Nagy, The "numerus clausus" policy of antisemitism or
policy of higher education. The social and political history of
^ a b Miklos Molnar, A Concise History of Hungary, CUP, 2001
^ "A Numerus Clausus módosítása - The modification of the Numerus
Clausus law". "http://regi.sofar.hu".
^ Anna Jaskóła,
University of Wrocław (2010). "Sytuacja prawna
mniejszosci żydowskiej w Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej" [The legal status
Jewish minority in the Second Republic] (PDF). Chapter 3:
Szkolnictwo żydowskie. Wrocław: Wydział Prawa, Administracji i
Ekonomii. Instytut Historii Państwa i Prawa (Faculty of Law,
Administration and Economy). pp. 65–66 (20/38 in PDF) – via direct
download from BibliotekaCyfrowa.pl.
^ a b c Getting In: the social logic of
Ivy League admissions by
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, 10 October 2005
^ Gerard N. Burrow (2008). A History of Yale's School of Medicine:
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University Press. p. 107ff.
^ Reis, Arthur H., Jr. "The Founding" (PDF). Brandeis Review, fiftieth
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names: authors list (link) , pp. 42–3: founder's son C. Ruggles
Smith quoted: "From its inception, Middlesex was ruthlessly attacked
by the American Medical Association, which at that time was dedicated
to restricting the production of physicians, and to maintaining an
inflexible policy of discrimination in the admission of medical
students. Middlesex, alone among medical schools, selected its
students on the basis of merit, and refused to establish any racial
^ The Birth of a New Institution Archived 2010-03-14 at the Wayback
Machine. Geoffrey Kabaservice, Yale Alumni Magazine, December 1999
^ "Fear of OBC backlash may derail upper caste quota plan".
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H Hansmann, R Kraakman "Property, contract, and verification: the
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^ F Parisi "THE FALL AND RISE OF FUNCTIONAL PROPERTY" George Mason Law
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L David "Ist der
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