French courses

The Graduate Institute has an English-French bilingual teaching policy. Although most classes are taught in English, students, professors and staff can speak and write in either English or French. The Institute wishes to ensure that students with a limited or no knowledge of French can develop their French language skills during their studies. Accordingly, French courses and French tests are organised during the study period.

French courses organised by the Institute


  • Intensive summer course: 26 August to 13 September 2024 (20 hours per week, morning or afternoon)
  • Annual course: two hours per week during the first year’s autumn and spring semesters
  • No course fee
  • Student Services determine registration; if registered, attendance is mandatory.
  • Course materials need to be purchased (CHF 30) on the first day of class.


Registration conditions


Students with minimal (lower than B1) or no prior knowledge of French must take an intensive French course, which takes place three weeks before the start of the first semester. They must register for this course when confirming their enrolment at the Institute. This intensive course will be followed by a weekly course during the first year.

All other students, who are neither native French speakers, nor holders of a B1 or higher French proficiency certificate, must register for a French test when confirming their enrolment. This test takes place during the first week of the academic year. The results (B1 level: listening and writing components) determine whether the participating students need to take a weekly French course during their first year of study.

Students who demonstrate French language proficiency must submit a proof of proficiency in order to be exempt from any course or test, at the time of enrolment confirmation.

This exemption applies to students who are either native French speakers, who have a secondary or post-secondary diploma taught entirely in French, who have spent a minimum of one academic year studying at university level, full-time, entirely in French, or who can produce a French language certificate equivalent to a DELF B1 level.

Please check your French registration status here.




1-    Successful completion of the French course

2-    Regular attendance: missing more than two class sessions, without written justification, leads to automatic withdrawal from the semester course.
Written justification includes a medical certificate or other reasonable cause, sent by email to

 The French course will be indicated on the transcript, with a pass/fail assessment.


Application guidelines for students registered for the French course


Master in International and Development Studies: The French course will count as a 3 ECTS skills workshop

Disciplinary Master programmes: The French course will count as a 3 ECTS complementary course taken outside the discipline

PhD programmes: The French course (3 ECTS) will appear on the transcript and be counted in addition to the required credits

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I skip the French course?

Only students with a sufficient proficiency level at the time of admission are exempt from French classes.

According to your French level, you will be registered for the intensive summer and/or annual French courses.

Once registered, attendance is mandatory. All absences must be justified by a medical certificate sent to the teacher via email. Two unjustified absences will lead to dismissal from the course and result in a failing grade, which will appear on your transcript.

Are there different language levels within the intensive and annual courses?

Yes. Students self-evaluate their level before the start of the course, via an online individual placement test. Group levels vary from beginner to intermediate.

Is there a course offered to students with an advanced level of French?

No. Students with an advanced level of proficiency are encouraged to attend the master degree courses taught in French by bilingual Faculty members (see course catalogue).

What does the French test consist of?

Easier than a typical B1 level certification, the French test is designed to evaluate your passive knowledge of French (indicative of your ability to follow a course taught in French). The test is different each year. It is generally composed of a listening exercise, grammar and vocabulary exercises and a reading comprehension exercise, followed by a multiple choice section, as well as a short writing section. All instructions are translated into English.

How will the French final result appear on my transcript?

  • Success: “Aquis” will appear on your official transcript (code “O” on your online transcript)
  • Test to be retaken: “En cours” will appear on your official transcript (code “P” on your online transcript)
  • Failure: “Echec” will appear on your official transcript (code “I” on your online transcript)
  • Exemption (your French level met the Institute’s admission requirements): “Acquis” will appear on your official transcript (code “O” on your online transcript)
  • Corrected copies of the test are available for review at the admission office. Please notice that you cannot print or take a picture of your test.