Frequently Asked Questions


  • What is the attendance policy?

Attendance is mandatory. If you miss a class, you must write to your instructor to apologise for your absence and explain why it was unavoidable. Students who miss more than 2 sessions of a lecture or seminar and more than 1 session of a colloquium will fail the course in question.

Our departmental standards are very clear: attendance is expected for all classes; and consistent, active participation is mandatory. We understand this to be a matter of academic, professional and civic responsibility. Our educational mission and your learning is heavily subsidized, and we are therefore responsible to the Bernese public for taking our work seriously and doing it properly. Active participation does not only mean talking in class (although this is a key feature of academic discourse), but also entails coming prepared, completing assigned readings, engaging with your peers, taking notes, following directions, etc. Students who consistently fail to participate actively in class may be failed. In this regard, we consider recurrent non-participation in more than two sessions of a lecture or seminar, and more than one session of a colloquium, to be unacceptable.
Allowance is always made for university-sanctioned absences such as documented illnesses, deaths in the family, or military service. Absence due to your participation in a departmental excursion seminar may also be excused. Regardless, any absence threatens the success of your learning and missed work should always be caught up and/or made up. Excused absences, like any absence, should always be signaled to your instructor (see above).

Course Registration and Evaluation

  • Do I have to register for courses and evaluations?

Yes, the Department of English uses KSL for the electronic registration for courses and evaluations. Students are required to register for the individual courses before the beginning of term. Please click here for more the deadlines and more information about course and assessment registration on KSL.

  • What do I do if a course I have completed is missing from KSL?

For courses you did in the old system (that is FS10 and earlier) please contact the students' administrator in the Secretariat.

For courses in the new system (everything HS10 and later) please contact the respective course instructor. Grades are usually entered in KSL in course of the semester break and sometimes entries might be delayed as much as to the beginning of the next term, so the first rule is to be patient.

  • Can I still fail a course which is ungraded?

Yes, every ungraded course is evaluated on a pass/fail basis. You have to meet all the course requirements in order to pass the course and receive ECTS for it.

  • How often am I allowed to retake an exam or rewrite a paper if I fail at the first attempt? Can I still keep insufficient grades (Kompensation)?

You can retake an exam or rewrite a paper once.

In the case of BA Propädeutikum modules, an insufficient grade at the second attempt will exclude you from continuing your studies in our department. The same applies to the MA foundation lectures: if you fail the evaluation twice, you cannot continue your MA studies with us.

If you fail at your second attempt in the evaluation of a Focus Module (BA) or a seminar, lecture or workshop, these credits will not count towards your degree and you will have to replace the entire module. Your failed course will remain on your KSL planning view, but you can move it to the clipboard.

Courses at Other Universities

  • Can I take courses at other Swiss universities?

Yes, you can. Please click here to find out more about the procedure.

Graded Courses

  • Can I take more graded courses than required?

No. We understand that this would be a way of earning credits more quickly. However, the goal is to diversify your studies and thus to attend a wide range of courses covering the field of Languages and Literatures in English.

Thesis Registration and Diploma Application

  • Do I have to have completed all other requirements before I can register for the thesis?

No. BA students have to have completed the Propädeutikum, the Focus Module and the graded seminars, the Advanced Reading List Exam and the Stay Abroad. They can still miss a reasonable number of optional credits and/or Wahlbereich credits (a maximum of 20 ECTS in total). MA students need to have completed all graded courses and may still miss a maximum of 10 ECTS required optional credits. Read more about KSL Registration on our website.

  • How do I find a supervisor for my BA or MA thesis and when is the time to approach a member of the teaching staff for thesis supervision?

You should choose your supervisor for your BA or MA thesis according to the topic you want to investigate in your thesis. Ideally, your supervisor teaches and does research in the field you are interested in. Check individual entries of members of staff on the website to find out more about their fields of expertise. Please also consult the information on Academic Writing for more information about supervisors in Literature, and Language and Linguistics.

  • How do I apply for my diploma?

In order to apply for your BA or MA diploma you need to contact the person in charge of the diploma supplements in both your major and your minor subject (for English, see the Who to Ask section). If everything is in order, they will sign a confirmation slip for you, which you need to hand in to the Dean’s Office along with your diploma application form and proof of payment of a fee. Click here for more details (see Applying for your diploma). For more information and the relevant forms, go to the Faculty of Humanities website.

General Information

  • Which courses can I take to earn optional credits (Wahlleistungen)?

You can earn optional credits in the following courses:

  • Workshops (1-3 ECTS)

  • Individual lectures (3 ECTS)

  • Individual seminars (4 ECTS)

  • Independent Studies (1-5 ECTS)

All courses taken as part of the Wahlleistungen are ungraded. For more information on course types and modules click here.

All courses offered within the BA can be taken as ungraded courses with the sole exception of the Core Curriculum Module and the Language Module on BA level. These are compulsory courses (Propädeutikum) for all our students and therefore cannot be taken twice. Both lectures and seminars that form part of a Focus Module can be taken separately as ungraded courses.

  • May I begin taking MA courses during my BA studies?

Yes. You can begin taking Vorgezogene Masterleistungen (VML) in the last semester of your BA or when your waiting for your diploma to be issued. You cannot take VML for more than one semester. You also must have accumulated at least 150 ECTS in their entire course of study (major, minor, and Electives/Wahlbereich) in order to do VML. Please contact your BA study counsellor if you plan on doing VML and they will give you a confirmation stating that you can gain VML in that particular semester. If you take more than one semester of VML, the ECTS obtained in the second semester will not be counted towards your MA.

  • Which courses can I take to earn credits for my Electives (Wahlbereich)?

The Electives (Wahlbereich) consists of 15 ECTS that every student in the Faculty of Humanities has to earn in courses outside of his/her major subject. It is meant to give students the opportunity to diversify their interests and get an impression of other subjects and courses of study. THESE COURSES NEED TO BE TAKEN OUTSIDE OF THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT. You can take courses in every department of every faculty of the university, provided the course is open to Electives (Wahlbereich) students and graded (please check with the respective course instructor in advance).

  • If I fail an exam or a paper for a graded course, can I still have the seminar or lecture counted as an ungraded course?

No. Once the registration deadline on KSL is over you cannot change from a graded course to an ungraded course. After the deadline, you have to fulfil all grade requirements, otherwise you cannot pass the course. However, if you register for the ungraded part of the seminar and fail the graded seminar paper, your instructor can agree to let you keep the 4 ECTS you have earned for the ungraded seminar - as long as you have completed all the necessary work. Go to our KSL Registration website for the deadlines.

Core Curriculum and Language Module (Propädeutikum)

  • Can I do other courses before having completed the Core Curriculum and Language Module (Propädeutikum)?

No. You need to complete all courses of the Core Curriculum and Language Module before you can move on to other courses. The Propädeutikum gives you the necessary skills and background knowledge to follow our other courses. The only exception are the Electives (Wahlbereich) for major students.

  • Can I attend Writing Skills II or Grammar II if I start my studies in the Spring Semester?

No. Only students who have completed Grammar I can attend Grammar II and only students who have completed Writing Skills I can attend Writing Skills II.

  • What happens if I fail one of the mandatory Core Curriculum and Language Module courses?

If you fail any of these courses you will be dismissed from your English studies, both at the University in Bern as well as elsewhere in Switzerland. If you fail Earlier Englishes and/or Literary History, you are still allowed to switch to a 30 ECTS BA Minor study program as these two courses are not mandatory for this degree. Please be aware that if you switch to a 30 ECTS BA Minor, you will not be able to switch to a MA Major as these courses are additional admissions requirements.



  • Are there any restrictions to consider when choosing courses in my BA studies?

No, there aren’t any restrictions. The only combination rules that you have to take into account are the ones concerning the coverage of both Language and Linguistics, and Literature. For BA majors this means that at least one of their 3 seminars has to be taken in Language and Linguistics and one in Literarture, and that students need to complete one lecture in either field. BA minor students do not have these restrictions.

Stay Abroad

  • Are there restrictions on what I can do for my Stay Abroad?

Please consult the page on Stay Abroad for more information. In your Stay Abroad we want you to go to an English-speaking country in order to experience a different culture first-hand and to improve your language skills. You should spend your time abroad either studying or working. Pure tourism will not be accepted. You are encouraged to use your imagination when considering your options for work or study in order to make the Stay Abroad as practical, effective, and enjoyable as possible. The International Coordinator  is able to advise on the viability of your choices. Talking to students who have already completed the Stay Abroad is another useful way of finding out about your options.

  • Can I get time spent abroad prior to my studies acknowledged for the Stay Abroad?

ECTS points are not granted to students who are not matriculated with us. This means that although you may receive recognition for your Stay Abroad, you will have to make up for the 5 to 10 ECTS points that you would normally have acquired on your Stay Abroad by taking courses. Each case is evaluated on an individual basis. Only stays abroad that took place no more than two years prior to the beginning of studies can be considered. Please consult the section "Planning your Stay Abroad" here for more information on waivers and the process.

  • Can I get an internship or work experience placement done prior to my studies accredited for the Stay Abroad?

If it was in Switzerland, no, this is not possible. If it was abroad, within two years of matriculation, yes. See above.

  • What if I have a disability or other personal circumstances that prevent me from spending significant amounts of time outside Switzerland?

The Stay Abroad is compulsory for all students. If travel abroad is impossible on the grounds of disability or other extenuating circumstances, however, alternative options can be considered. These could consist of doing an internship in a professional area relevant for students of English or in other activities related to the study of English. Contact the International Coordinator for more information.

  • How is the Stay Abroad evaluated?

Once you have completed your Stay Abroad, you have to write a short report (approx. 750 words) or contribute to and participate in the annual Stay Abroad Meeting, in order to complete and pass the ungraded Stay Abroad module.

This report is an account of many elements of your experience - the culture of the host country, your experiences at the workplace/university, the linguistic discoveries and insights, and anything else that may be of interest to the other students that read it. It is designed as a resource that will enlighten others about what they can do for the stay abroad. Students are encouraged to write in the first-person: reflexively, and relatively informally.

Please consult the page "Completing your Stay Abroad" here for more information.

  • How do I organise my Stay Abroad?

Read all our Stay Abroad online information and if possible, attend the Stay Abroad Meeting and get an idea of your wishes. Then contact your International Coordinator in order to confirm the details of your stay abroad.

  • Can you tell me about the changes to the regulations of the Pägagogische Hochschule (PH) regarding stays abroad?

During 2015, the PH changed its own stay abroad requirement for English students. Unfortunately, we are not able to advise about these changes in detail, but students should note that prospective English teachers must have spent at least 6 months abroad. Contact the PH for further details.

  • Do I stay matriculated (and pay student fees) at the University of Bern while completing my Stay Abroad?

Although it is understandable if students do not wish to pay student fees while not attending classes, the fact that the Stay Abroad is compulsory and earns them ECTS toward their BA degree means that you must be matriculated while completing all or part of it. For further questions about this, students should contact ZIB.


  • Are there admission requirements for the MA programme?

Yes, information on the admission requirements can be found on the faculty's website of our MA programme.

  • Are there any Latin requirements for admission to the MA programme?

No. However, students with an interest in Medieval and Early Modern Literature are strongly encouraged to acquire at least basic Latin skills.

MA Colloquium and MA Thesis

Please consult the page on course types and modules as well as the Academic Writing and Thesis Information sectionon the MA Thesis for more information.

  • When do I start the MA Colloquium?

Normally you would start it in your second term and that is what we highly recommend. Students need to attend their third (and final) MA Colloquium in their fourth semester, i.e. when they are writing their MA thesis.

  • Can I take the MA Colloquium for four terms?

Yes, you can do so if you want, but you will only receive credits for the compulsory three terms.

  • What happens if I fail the MA thesis or hand it in late?

If you hand in your thesis late, you will have to write another MA thesis with a new topic according to the Studienreglement of the Faculty (Art. 42, Abs. 3): “Bei Nichteinhaltung der Abgabefrist für die Masterarbeit ohne Bewilligung einer Verlängerung ist eine einmalige Wiederholung der Masterarbeit unter Festlegung eines neuen Themas zulässig». 

If you hand in your thesis in due time but recieve a failing grade, you have the opportunity to either re-write the thesis or write a new thesis on a new topic. You will have to discuss with your supervisor what makes more sense and when your new due date will be (either in the next semester or a year later).

Major, Minor and Specialisation

  • Can I do both my major and minor within the department?

Yes. In this case the major has to be done in one specialization, the minor in the other. Please consult the study plan for more information.

  • At what point of my MA do I have to choose my specialisation?

The specialization is chosen when you register for our MA programme and before you start your MA courses.

  • Does the Foundation Lecture in my non-specialisation count towards the 14-18 ECTS I have to take in my non-specialisation?

You must attain 14-18 ECTS in your non-specialisation subject, including your non-specialisation foundation lecture. This means you must attain 4 ECTS in the foundation lecture, and then between 10-14 ECTS in other courses in your non-specialisation subject.

Optional Credits (Wahlleistungen)

  • Which courses can I take to earn optional credits (Wahlleistungen)?

Any MA courses can be taken as optional credits. MA optional credits cannot be acquired in BA courses. Workshops can only be counted towards an MA degree if they are marked as open to MA students in the course booklet.


  • Are there any restrictions when choosing courses in my MA studies?

MA majors have to take 14-18 credits in the field which they have not chosen as their specialization. For example, if you are an MA major student with Language and Linguistics as your specialization, then you need to earn 14-18 ECTS in literature courses. One graded seminar (7 ECTS) can be among these courses. MA minors can (but do not have to) earn up to 9 ECTS in the other specialization. Minors typically take all their graded courses in their chosen specialization.

  • As a Major/minor combination student I am technically supposed to attend three foundation lectures, but there are only two offered. What do I do?

The third foundation lecture must be replaced with a graded freestanding lecture in the your specialisation. Students also need to obtain an additional 1 ECTS from Extensions (Independet Studies or Workshop), which will be ungraded. This way, you will have only 19 graded ECTS instead of the regular 20 graded ECTS.