Degree Programs & Courses Language Courses

English courses / Workshops

English courses and workshops run by Academic English Services (AES) are designed to provide language support for undergraduate and graduate students who need to understand, speak, and write English for their studies and academic careers.

We try to provide a wide range of courses to suit the different needs and levels of English that are typical for students at the University of Bern. Because most students have had 5 or more years of English at school, our courses are at intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1 & above). Workshops are given without a language level. 

Our courses and workshops are open to students who are matriculated to study for a full degree at the University of Bern and to international students taking part in an exchange semester at the University of Bern. None of our courses or workshops are open to staff members, including visiting scholars or post docs. 

We do not offer course or workshop places to students studying at other universities or educational institutions in Switzerland. This category includes incoming BENEFRI students and students from the BFH.

Overview of courses

Most courses run by Academic English Services are standard semester courses, i.e. courses with a start and end date within the teaching period at the University of Bern. Students can only begin a course at the start of a semester and must be prepared to attend at least 80% of a course, usually until the end of the semester. All standard English courses require submission of a placement test, available twice a year before courses begin.

Workshops are short courses for students, often given without a learning level. Workshops offer students direct self-registration in KSL/CTS and no placement test needs to be submitted.

How to register for standard courses

It is NOT possible to register for standard courses using either the CTS/KSL system or ILIAS. Students new to our courses submit a placement test by email and wait for an answer before they can attend. Students who have already successfully completed one of our courses may register by sending us an email from their student campus account. 

The next opportunity to start attending a standard course is in the fall 2020 semester. 

What we offer

We have a number of courses designed to develop students’ all-round academic English: vocabulary and reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills. These enable you to participate more effectively in university courses. The courses are called English for University Studies (EUS) and are offered at three different levels: 

If you are not familiar with the terms B1, B2, etc. used to describe the levels at which our courses are given, please take a look at the Council of Europe self-assessment grid at the bottom of this page under Find out more.  

Specific language needs

Our English courses are also designed to help students with specific language needs.

We run an Advanced English Speaking course for students who seek to improve their spoken English. The course is open to bachelor, master, and doctoral students who are already at an advanced (C1) level. The focus in this course is on maintaining and broadening students' English speaking skills in an academic environment. Activities include pronunciation exercises and participating in and leading discussions based on current themes arising from academic studies and research.

Students at an upper-intermediate level (B2) also have the chance to improve their spoken English in Speaking English with Confidence, a course designed to provide students with practice in verbal communication in an academic setting. The course helps students use conversation strategies efficiently and appropriately by focusing on fluency, pronunciation, and vocabulary.

Academic writing for bachelor and master students

Academic writing courses for bachelor and master students are held at an upper-intermediate/advanced level every second semester, usually in a spring semester. The courses provide practice in the skills of writing a thesis in English by focusing on the writing process, sentence structure, text organization, and accuracy. Class sessions will include help with grammar, vocabulary and style. The next courses will take place in spring 2021.

Courses for doctoral students

Academic writing courses for doctoral students are offered at upper-intermediate and advanced levels every second semester. These courses incorporate a range of approaches, including the analysis of sample authentic texts specific to participants' disciplines. Course participants are expected to submit regular writing assignments and are given individual guidance and feedback on revising their texts, some of which may later be incorporated into doctoral theses or articles submitted for publication. Full information is available on our web page for doctoral students.

TOEFL exam preparation

In 2017, we added a TOEFL Exam Preparation Course to our program. The course is designed to help students who need to take the official TOEFL exam, either for study abroad or for their studies in Switzerland, and provides practice in all four academic English skills assessed by the TOEFL exam: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The course takes place once a year, usually in the autumn/fall semester. 

Please note that the TOEFL course is an exam preparation course; English for University Studies courses are more suitable for students who wish to improve their general skills in academic English. 

The University of Bern is not an official testing center for TOEFL and exam registration for the official TOEFL qualification is not included as part of the course. Registration for the official TOEFL examination remains the responsibility of the individual student.  Links to information about the official TOEFL examination are included in the TOEFL/IELTS section of our website.

ECTS credits, examinations/course assessments

All standard courses run by Academic English Services require a student to participate in a course examination or a course assessment. Each course description in KSL/CTS provides details about the examination or the course assessment for a particular course. 

Students can earn ECTS credits for the courses if they fulfill the requirements. The courses require at least 80% attendance, active participation, completion of the coursework and passing the final examination or course assessment to receive the credits. The ECTS credits are usually recorded in the diploma supplement as voluntary additional attainments. N.B. Please consult the student advisor in your department to find out whether our course credits will count towards your degree. We are unable to do this for you.

A student may officially withdraw or deregister from a course without penalty after the first class by contacting either info@aes... or their course leader. If this is not done before the second class is held, it is assumed a student will complete the course and participate in the course assessment/examination.

If a student does not complete their course, they will NOT be offered another course place/will no longer be able to register for an English course run by Academic English Services.

Repeating an examination or course assessment

A failed examination or course assessment may be repeated once in a subsequent semester. Should a student fail again on the second attempt, no third attempt or repeat of the course will be permitted.