Studying as an Exchange Student at the University of Bern Law Faculty
The University of Bern's Law Faculty welcomes students from both Europe (through the SEMP program, formerly called Erasmus) and from other international law schools with which the law faculty has exchange agreements. In addition, students from other Swiss universities may participate in an exchange with Bern through the Mobility program. On this website, you can find information about academics, the University of Bern in general, tips on living in Bern, and how to apply to study abroad at the University of Bern Law Faculty.
Exchange Student Coordinator
Ms. Monika Scherler
University of Bern
c/o Institute of European and International Economic Law
Tel.: +41 31 631 36 25, firstname.lastname@example.org
Walk-In Hours (no appointment necessary): Monday 14:30-17:00 / Tuesday 14:00-16:00.
Reception International Exchange Students
Dean of the Faculty of Law, Peter V. Kunz, welcomes international exchange students studying at the law faculty during the 2018 fall semester.
How to Apply
- BeNeFri Program (between the universities of Bern, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg)
- Georgetown University Law Center Students - must apply through Georgetown's Semester Abroad program with the University of Bern Law Faculty, details here.
Law Studies in Bern
- Courses, Exams, Grades and ECTS
- Academic Calendar
- Tuition Fees
- Language of Instruction
- Library, IT, and Sports
Courses, Exams, Grades & ECTS
All of the courses can be found on the KSL online system, by clicking here, and then clicking “English” at the top of the page. Please note that KSL can also be sorted to list the language of instruction of the various courses, so you can display courses available in English, for example, for the semester in which you are interested. Students who want to take classes at the law faculty conducted in English should start their search by choosing “Advanced Search” and then dropping down under “Faculty” to “Faculty of Law”, then sorting the “Language” column and paging through until they see classes in “EN” for English. Note that HS2018 denotes the fall semester (Herbstsemester 2018) and spring semester denoted as “FS” (Frühlingssemester).
For courses taught in German, students should have at least a B2 level of German under the Common European Framework of Languages in order to enroll. Courses taught in German are taught in High German, so students have no need to be familiar with the Swiss German dialect in order to study here.
At the law school, there are generally three types of courses, lectures (Vorlesungen), tutorials (Uebungen), and seminars. Lectures conclude with a written or oral exam, seminars and tutorials are graded based on a written paper. Tutorials often involve a paper which solves a certain case study or legal hypothetical.
Both local and exchange students are entitled to take classes (Master level) and sit for exams at the nearby universities of Neuchâtel and Fribourg within the scope of the BeNeFri program. Note that Fribourg is a bilingual French-German university and Neuchâtel is a French-speaking university. Both offer some English lectures as well. The BeNeFri program has a compensation fund for travel costs between Bern and the other BeNeFri universities. If you are interested, you should download the registration form and contact the coordinator. The form has to be addressed to the Admissions Office by September 30 for the autumn semester and by February 28 for the spring semester. Please note that a central BeNeFri registration with the Admissions Office of the University of Bern is a prerequisite for a valid registration for examination and thus for the recognition of attended lectures.
Students do not have to register to attend most classes at the University of Bern Law Faculty (unless it is specifically noted in KSL, for certain seminars), but students do have to register to take the exams and must do so by the required deadlines. Please note that students who have not completed their secondary schooling in the German language may ask for 30 minutes extra to complete their exams, but they must do so when registering for the exam. Later requests cannot be accommodated. Compulsory registration for exams must be done through the KSL system. The deadlines for exam registration are listed on this webpage (see English PDFs).
Exams for the fall semester are usually held in January, and exams for the spring semester are usually held in June. SEMP and other international exchange students staying in Bern doing the autumn term can request to take the fall semester exams before Christmas or just take them on the standard University of Bern schedule, if they would prefer to have the standard amount of study time and are willing to stay in Bern through January. Failed exams can only be retaken at the end of the next term.
The University of Bern uses the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) to calculate credits. The University of Bern does not require a minimum or maximum amount of credits per semester, but the student’s home university may have credit requirements, so students should double check the rules with their home universities. For local University of Bern students, the university recommends a 30 ECTS course load per semester. One ECTS credit generally corresponds to 25-30 hours of workload. The total workload includes class attendance, readings, other assignments, and study for the exam or writing a paper. Depending on their language proficiency, of course, non-native speakers may have to invest more time. The University usually advises that exchange students take approximately 20-25 ECTS per semester.
Generally, for Bachelor’s classes, students who successfully pass the exam or paper are awarded 1.5 ECTS for 1 weekly hour of classroom time. Master’s classes count as 2.5 ECTS for 1 weekly hour of classroom time, provided students pass the exam or paper.
|3.5 or lower||Failing|
Academic Year 2018 – 2019
- Orientation for Exchange Students: Date to be announced
- Fall Semester 2018, Classes in Session: September 17, 2018 - December 21, 2018
- Spring Semester 2019, Classes in Session: February 18, 2019 - May 31, 2019; Spring Break Vacation (No Classes): April 19, 2019 - April 28, 2019
Academic Year 2019 – 2020
- Orientation for Exchange Students: Date to be announced (usually the week before classes start)
- Fall Semester 2019, Classes In Session: September 16, 2019 - December 20, 2019
- Spring Semester 2020, Classes in Session: February 17, 2020 - May 29, 2018; Spring Break Vacation (No Classes): April 10 - April 19, 2020
Academic Year 2020 – 2021
- Orientation for Exchange Students: Date to be announced (usually the week before classes start)
- Fall Semester 2020, Classes In Session: September 14, 2020 - December 18, 2020
- Spring Semester 2021, Classes in Session: February 22, 2021 - June 4, 2021; Spring Break Vacation (No Classes): April 2 - April 11, 2021
As a SEMP (ERASMUS) incoming student, you will receive a mobility grant from the Swiss government. This ranges between CHF 360 - 420 a month depending on your country of origin. Your online application for a SEMP (ERASMUS) stay at the University of Bern is also an automatic application for the grant.
Language of Instruction
Classes at the University of Bern Law Faculty are taught either in High German or English (or occasionally, French), so students should not worry if they want to take classes in German but are not familiar with the Swiss German dialect. We do recommend at least a B2 level of German under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in order to attend law classes taught in German.
Exchange students can sort class offerings by language of instruction on the KSL website. Choose “Advanced Search” and then choose “Faculty of Law” under “Faculty”. Afterwards, you can sort the courses which appear by language, DE for German, EN for English, and FR for French.
Students who have some German knowledge but who do not feel confident enough to sit for German exams and earn credits for law courses taught in German could also sit in on/audit some courses in German, while officially taking and registering for exams only for other courses taught in English.
Students who want to further improve their German may also take separate classes in German as a Foreign Language, if space is available.
Library, IT & Sports
The University’s modern facilities include:
Living in Bern
Moving to Bern
The University of Bern’s International Office provides information on its website regarding:
Students may want to buy a local SIM card or prepaid plan for cell phones. Comparisons of different options (as well as price comparisons for other goods and services), can be found on www.comparis.ch.
Transport & Free Time Ideas
The International Office has additional tips on cultural activities and entertainment in Bern at: http://www.unibe.ch/studies/mobilitaet/students/incoming/ausgehen_reisen/index_eng.html.
Getting to Bern/Travel within Switzerland
The easiest way to travel to Bern is by train. There are good train connections from all major European cities as well as from the airports of Basel (90 minutes), Geneva (120 minutes) or Zurich (75 minutes). You can also fly to the small Bern airport and take a shuttle to the city center. If you plan to drive to Switzerland, remember that one needs a motorway sticker to drive on Swiss highways, which costs about 40 CHF once a year. In general, students tend to take public transit or ride their bicycles to and from the university.
If you plan to take the local transit system in Bern city (trams, buses, local trains) frequently, you may want to consider buying a monthly ticket, which is 60 CHF per month for students under 25 years old, see, https://www.mylibero.ch/de/abo/libero-abo/. Schedules for local trains can be found both online at www.sbb.ch or at www.rbs.ch (the Bern railway site).
If you plan to travel around Switzerland in your free time, you can save a great deal of money by buying a “Halbtax” card, which reduces your fares on most train and bus networks throughout Switzerland. See https://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/railpasses/half-fare-travelcard.html
Another option to save money is the “Gleis 7” card, which allows passengers under 25 years old to travel unlimited in second class from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. (but you must also have a “Halbtax” card). See details here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/railpasses/track-7.html. There are also sometimes “Supersaver” tickets available at a reduced price, http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/supersaver-tickets.html. For other train fares and schedules, see http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html.
If you go on one-day trips, you might also consider buying a one-day travel pass, sold by the train company or some municipalities an some private organizations. With one of these, you can take Swiss trains and buses for approximately 49 CHF a day. See http://www.tageskarte-gemeinde.ch/en-us/.
Please note that even though Swiss trains and buses operate on the honor system, i.e. you buy a ticket and it is only checked when and if controllers come through, most intercity trains are controlled, and trams and buses are also often spot checked. If you are found to be traveling without a ticket, the penalty fee can be quite high, and you will be asked to pay it on the spot.
Shopping & Meals
Most consumer goods, including food, are somewhat expensive in Switzerland. On the other hand, the quality and variety tends to be very good. The two largest supermarket/department store chains, Coop and Migros, have branches near the university in the Post Parc on Schanzenstrasse and on Bubenbergplatz, as well as in the main train station. Discounter chains like Aldi, Denner, and Pickpay are also available, but often in less convenient locations to public transit. Note that most stores are closed on Sundays, but there is an exception for stores in the main Bern train station (Bahnhof), which have longer hours and Sunday hours. If you want to make a larger grocery order and have it delivered, you can do so via delivery services Coop at Home or Migros Le Shop.
The least expensive option to eat out for students is to eat at the university cafeterias, where a main course tends to cost under 10 CHF and where coffee and drinks are also a little less expensive than elsewhere. The university cafeterias are called “Mensa”, and they tend to offer a choice of two daily menus each. See http://www.mensa.unibe.ch
Cheaper fast food options exist, especially in the main train station nearby the university, but in a casual sit-down restaurant in Switzerland, plan on paying about 20-25 CHF per person for a basic meal with a drink. Although the drinking water is safe in Switzerland, it is uncommon to get free water automatically on the table with a meal. Tipping in Switzerland tends to vary from elsewhere, also because wait staff are paid better wages. Usually, customers round their bill up to the next franc or two, basically leaving a tip of 1-2 francs maximum, unless you are in an expensive restaurant and have a very high bill.
If you have an emergency in Switzerland, you should be aware of the emergency telephone numbers. For general emergences, call 112; for an ambulance, call 144; for police, call 117, and for fire, call 118. Swiss Universities do not have student health clinics, but if you need medical care outside of regular doctors’ hours, you can also go to the Emergency Room (Notfall) at the Inselspital hospital or other nearby hospitals, or if you have a less urgent illness, there is a “City Notfall” walk-in clinic near the University at Schanzenstrasse 4A (Postparc Area), which accepts walk-ins without appointments from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The pharmacy in the main train station is also open longer hours.