Working Paper

Implementing quotas in university admissions: An experimental analysis


  • Braun
  • S.
  • Dwenger
  • N.
  • Kübler
  • D.
  • Westkamp
  • A.
Publication Date

Quotas for special groups of students often apply in school or university admission procedures. This paper studies the performance of two mechanisms to implement such quotas in a lab experiment. The first mechanism is a simplified version of the mechanism currently employed by the German central clearinghouse for university admissions, which first allocates seats in the quota for top-grade students before allocating all other seats among remaining applicants. The second is a modified version of the student-proposing deferred acceptance (SDA) algorithm, which simultaneously allocates seats in all quotas. Our main result is that the current procedure, designed to give top-grade students an advantage, actually harms them, as students often fail to grasp the strategic issues involved. The modified SDA algorithm significantly improves the matching for top-grade students and could thus be a valuable tool for redesigning university admissions in Germany.


JEL Classification
C78, C92, D78, I20

Key Words

  • Boston mechanism
  • College admissions
  • experiment
  • Gale-Shapley mechanism
  • Kontingente
  • Matching
  • quotas