reasonable adjustments in studies and examinations

"Reasonable adjustments must ensure that equal opportunities are created for study and examination conditions."1

Reasonable adjustments

  • What are reasonable adjustments ("Nachteilsausgleiche")?
  • Who can apply?
  • How to apply?
  • What evidence is necessary?
  • Possible measures to reasonable adjustments
  • Application for reasonable adjustments - an explanatory video

The right to reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities or chronic illnesses is enshrined in the Basic Law, the Framework Act for Higher Education, the state higher education acts, the examination regulations of higher education institutions and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. To the legal foundations

What are reasonable adjustments ("Nachteilsausgleiche")?

Students with disability or chronic (physical or mental) illnesses can be restricted in their studies in many different ways: by a reduced ability to perform and concentrate, time-consuming treatments and hospital stays, structural barriers or a limited time budget. As a result, time and formal requirements for studies and examinations often cannot be met as planned. This is why there are so-called reasonable adjustments. They are intended to ensure that all students are granted equal opportunities and that individual needs of students with disabilities or chronic illnesses are taken into account. Reasonable adjustments do not represent "privileges", but rather compensate for individual and situational disadvantages that arise from a disability or chronic (physical or mental) illness. The use of reasonable adjustments will not be noted in the transcript.

Who can apply?

All students with long-term health impairments (usually lasting more than six months) that affect their studies can apply for reasonable adjustments. These can be impairments of a psychological nature, chronic illnesses, impairments of a motor nature, language impairments or also partial performance disorders such as dyslexia (reading and spelling disorder) and dyscalculia (arithmetic disorder) and other long-term impairments. Also included are chronic diseases with an episodic course, for example rheumatism, epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. It does not matter whether the impairment is officially recognised (severe disability certificate) or not. This exemplary list does not mean that the impairments mentioned are entitled to adjustments in every case. Each application must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

How to apply?

It is advisable to contact the Appointee for Students with Disabilities or Chronic Illnesses in advance of submitting the application in order to discuss your personal situation. Please submit your application for reaonsable adjustments in a timely manner.

1.  Applications are to be submitted to the respective examination board via the responsible administrator in the Examination Administration of the Student Services and need to be supported by appropriate evidence. You send an informal written application in which you explain how the disability or the chronic illness specifically affects the performance of study or examination achievements and suggest solutions as to how a suitable adjustment could look like. Information on the illness is necessary. The naming of a diagnosis can be helpful for the assessment, but it is not mandatory. It is important that the application makes it clear, even to medical non-specialists, which restrictions exist in relation to the study programme.

2. Please enclose suitable evidence with the application. In this case, too, it is not the diagnosis that is ultimately decisive, but the connection between the health impairment and the difficulty in studying.

3. The application is submitted to the Student Service.

4. It will then be forwarded to the relevant examination board.

5. The examination board decides on your application and sends a written decision.

6. An appeal can be lodged against a rejection.

If necessary, the application can also be submitted for several comparable examinations.

What evidence is necessary?

One or more of the following documents are particularly suitable as evidence:

    - (Specialist) medical certificates or statements by licensed psychological psychotherapists and/or
    - Treatment reports from hospital and rehabilitation stays and/or
    - Statements from rehabilitation providers or approval notices from providers of integration assistance,
    - Diagnostic tests, e.g. for dyslexia or dyscalculia, should generally not be older than five years,
    - Severely disabled person's certificate or notice of assessment from the pension office,
    - Statement from the university's Appointee for Students with Disabilities.

Official medical reports are only required if you are expressly requested to submit them by Leuphana University.


-Both the Student Services and the Examination Committee are obliged to maintain confidentiality towards third parties.

-An application for reasonable adjustments will be treated confidentially

Possible measures to reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments in examinations can only be granted if it is suitable, necessary and appropriate to neutralise the impairment caused by the disability or chronic (physical or mental) illness in the performance of the examination. Therefore, reasonable adjustments are not possible if the impairment is not compensable because it concerns precisely the performance to be determined by the examination. In order to maintain equal opportunities for all examinees, the performance requirements and assessment standards may not be changed.

The following list provides initial guidance on possible measures to reasonable adjustments. Which adjustment is appropriate in individual cases always depends on the concrete impairment and the respective examination requirements.

  • Extension of writing time for examinations and extension of preparation time for oral examinations
  • Extension of processing time by actual break times
  • Examinations in separate rooms with your own supervisors
  • Extending the time allowed for completing homework and final papers
  • Modification of the form of examination
  • Modification of practical examination periods
  • Modification of practical examinations by other type of assesments    
  • Permission to use technical aids and personal assistance    
  • Provision of adapted examination papers
  • Equalization of examination clusters/postponement of examination dates

Application for reasonable adjustments - an explanatory video

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In this video, the project "Studying with a Mental Illness" of HAW Hamburg and the Hamburg Open Online University offers helpful information on how to apply for reasonable adjustments. The project's page can be reached at²

1Deutsches Studentenwerk (2019) Nachteilsausgleiche für Studierende mit Behinderungen – Prüfungsrechtliche Bausteine einer inklusiven Hochschule [not yet available in English]

2The video is from the Hamburg Open Online University project. Project participants: Tobias Kahrmann, Kyra Furgalec, Meike Butenob, Prof. Dr. Dieter Röh.

Institution: HAW Hamburg CC BY-SA 4.0 (Creative Commons). No changes have been made.