Frequently Asked Questions

General Information for BA and MA Students

If you scroll a bit further, you will find sections dedicated to specific BA and MA-related questions.


Attendance is mandatory. If you miss a class, you must write to your instructor to apologise for your absence and explain why missing class was unavoidable. Students who miss more than 2 sessions of a 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

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 the deadlines and more information about course and assessment registration on KSL.

You can find more information on course types and modules here

Also, always check the course booklet for more detailed information on the courses you select.

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 the course of the semester break and sometimes entries might be delayed as long as to the beginning of the next term, so the first rule is to be patient.

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.

You can retake an exam or rewrite a paper once.

In the case of BA  Core Curriculum 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

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

Graded Courses

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

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 must have completed all other compulsory modules with the exception of the MA Colloquium. At the moment of registration (early December/early June) they cannot have more than one graded seminar pending (i.e., already attended but still awaiting entry in KSL) and must have already attended the second MA Colloquium. Furthermore, they cannot miss more than 10 ungraded ECTS (excluding the final MA colloquium) when registering. Our Sample Study Plan MA Major may help you plan your studies accordingly. Read more about KSL Registration on our website.

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. The Literature and Language & Linguistics sections have lists of possible supervisors for theses:

Supervisors for Language and Linguistics (PDF, 130KB)

Supervisors for Literature (PDF, 120KB)

Please also consult the information on Academic Writing for more information about writing papers.

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.

BA Studies

General Information

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.

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.

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.

You can find out whether a course is open for Electives on KSL, in the section "Studies" > "Recognition", "recognition as optional course possible". Please always double-check with the respective course instructor in advance, to make sure that you can take the course as "Elective", and that you will receive a grade.

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)

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.

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.

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.


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 Literature, and that students need to complete one lecture in either field. BA minor students do not have these restrictions.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

MA Studies


Yes, information on the admission requirements can be found on the faculty's website of our 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 section on the MA Thesis for more information.

We recommend starting during your second semester. Students need to attend their third (and final) MA Colloquium in their fourth semester, i.e. when they are writing their MA thesis.

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

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

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.

Please click here to see a sample study plan.

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

Yes. 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)

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.


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.

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.