Bien commencer ses études

Some useful guidelines when beginning your studies at the Faculty of Humanities


Choice of disciplines :

You are enrolled on a BA (in French: baccalauréat universitaire ès lettres or bachelor).  You need to choose two disciplines from the 30 proposed by the Faculty:

Some disciplines are offered by the University of Lausanne (cinema studies, south-east Asian languages and civilisation) and by the University of Neuchâtel (ethnology, information and communication sciences). If you are interested in one of these extra-Faculty disciplines, you will need to complete a form from our Faculty student secretariat to allow you to study the discipline of your choice; you must also obtain details about the study plan, timetable and enrolment method from the Faculty concerned in Lausanne/Neuchâtel.

If you are planning to become a teacher, please choose two disciplines that are taught in schools here.  The disciplines in the humanities which are likely to lead to a teaching post in secondary school are German, French and English.

The Faculty disciplines are presented during the first two days of the start of the autumn semester:

As you will not be following any classes during these two days, try to attend the presentations given by several departments to reconfirm your initial choices or to learn more about a discipline you may not have considered before.

You can still change disciplines early in the autumn semester.  At the beginning of the semester, you will receive an e-mail from the Faculty student secretariat requesting you to register your final choices online (inscription en ligne – IEL), as well as the modules that you have chosen to follow.

You may also change disciplines the following year, provided you have acquired 24 credits by the end of the first two semesters of study.  You will need to write to the study advisor (conseillère aux études), who will cancel the inscriptions linked to the modules for your initial chosen discipline.

N.B.  Changing your discipline does not modify your overall study deadline.

What is a module?

All teaching in the Faculty is based on a modular structure.  The BA is composed of 15 modules (7 in discipline A, 7 in discipline B and one module chosen in an optional third discipline).  Each module is composed of a defined number of lecture courses, seminars, practical classes (travaux pratiques) and evaluations (attestations and exams), which ensure thematic and methodological coherence.  Each module represents roughly one day of work a week across the whole year.  This day corresponds to the teaching hours spread across the week as well as homework (reading, preparation for written work, presentations and exams).

modules BA

How do you choose your modules ?

You are supposed to follow 5 modules a year, which represents full-time study.  However, it is also possible to study part time.  The BA rules stipulate that you must successfully complete a minimum of two modules (i.e. 24 ECTS credits) in the first year, then at least two and a half modules each following year (i.e. 30 ECTS credits).

The suggested course of study for a full-time student in the first year is to follow two modules in each of his/her two disciplines and the module à option in a third discipline (2.2.1 combination), but the way in which you actually distribute the modules of each discipline is up to you.  You may decide to follow 3 modules in your A discipline (provided the Plan d’études does not define a prerequisite whereby foundational modules must be completed before you can follow advanced modules), plus 2 modules in your B discipline and decide to take your module à option libre in the following year (3.2.0 combination).  You can also choose to follow 3 modules in your A discipline, one module in your B discipline and the module à option libre (3.1.1 combination).

What is a credit?

ECTS (European Credit and Transfer System) credits measure all work performed by a student (presence in class, bibliographic research, reading, homework, exams, etc.).  One credit represents approximately 25 to 30 hours of work.  A university year is the equivalent of 60 ECTS credits.  Each module totals 12 credits.  Some modules are subdivided into two half-modules worth 6 credits each.

Grading in the Faculty of Humanities

While credits measure the amount of work completed, grades validate the quality of the work.  Grades are on a scale of 0 to 6, the pass grade being 4.  They are calculated to a quarter of a point.

What is a plan d’études?

Each discipline is governed by a study plan (plan d’études) which defines the number and type of course each student must follow for each module, the form of exams (e.g., attestations in the form of presentations or written work,  oral or written exams, continuous assessment…) and any special instructions (indication of pre-requisites, e.g. successfully completing BA1 before being qualified to follow an advanced module, modules that are compulsory, etc.).  Each discipline is composed of 7 modules:  BA1, BA2, BA3, …, BA7.

What is a “module à option libre” (BA15)?

This module must be chosen in a discipline other than your two main disciplines, and will only be studied for one year.  You can choose a module to reinforce one of your two main disciplines or choose a discipline for your own interest but which you do not wish to study for three years.

To find out which modules can be chosen as a “module à option libre” you may consult this list:
and click on the relevant study plan.  At the end of each study plan there is a heading “Modules offerts aux étudiant-e-s d’autres disciplines”, which indicates which modules are offered.

Some disciplines require knowledge of a classical language (Latin or Greek).  Generally, students who have not taken or have not successfully completed a course in the classical language as part of their secondary education certificate, will have to fulfil this requirement by taking it as their “module à option libre”.

How do your organise your timetable?

In contrast to other Faculties, the Faculty of Humanities does not provide you with a specific class timetable, because each student composes his/her personal timetable (based on the choice of discipline, the number of modules followed and the options chosen). 

Therefore you will organise your own timetable by consulting the relevant plan d’études for each of your disciplines: and the academic timetable:


CR: cours = lecture course
SE: séminaire = seminar
CS: cours-séminaire = lecture course combined with seminar interaction
TP:  travaux pratiques = practical class work
A: semestre d’automne = Autumn/Fall semester
P: semestre de printemps = Spring semester
AN: annual

Teaching rooms:  Room numbers are preceded by one or more letters, which refer to the various university buildings:

B:  central university building, known as “Bastions”
A:  Aile Jura - wing of the Bastions building
L:  Landolt building, 2 rue de Candolle
SO: “Saint-Ours” building, 5 rue Saint-Ours
CO: “Comédie” building, 12 boulevard des Philosophes
PHIL: “Philosophes” building, 22 boulevard des Philosophes
U:  Uni Dufour – auditorium
MAH:  Art and history museum

With more than 30 disciplines offered you are likely to find you have conflicts in your timetable, i.e. a lecture course in discipline A which conflicts with a seminar in discipline B.

In the case of timetable conflicts, you should give priority to language teaching, foundation courses and seminars.  Large departments offer the same course in several groups at different times/on different days.

Some lecture courses are recorded by the mediathèque ( 

You can also decide to follow a module out of sequence (provided it does not have pre-requisites defined in the plan d’études) and take the modules that conflict in the following year.

If you have any doubts, do not hesitate to ask the teachers, the student counsellors or the student secretariat for advice.

What is the règlement d’études?

The règlement d’études du BA is a document which is as important as the plan d’études  and can be consulted on line:

It describes the organisation of your studies within the entire Faculty:  duration, requests for leave, equivalencies, mobility between universities, exam procedures and exclusion from the Faculty.  Read this document carefully because it informs you about your rights and also your obligations.

Your student email address:

When you are enrolled at the University of Geneva you are given a student email address, which always takes the following form: 


You can access your e-mail address from the following link:

It is also possible to have your Faculty email messages redirected to your personal email address.  Go to your university email address as indicated above, click on “Options” then on “Créer une règle de boîte de reception” (Create an Inbox rule).

NB:  Your student email address is an official information channel.  You are expected to consult it regularly as there will often be messages from the Faculty student secretariat, your teachers or the administration.

Signing up for courses and exams:

At the beginning of the semester you must sign up to the data base, inscription en ligne (IEL), indicating all the modules that you have chosen.

A compulsory information session about the IEL is scheduled on 24 September 2014

You can consult the IEL guide on line:

Do not forget that in the Faculty of Humanities as well as signing up for courses you need to sign up for exams.  Exam sign-up is not done automatically as in other Faculties, but is the responsibility of the student.

Preparing yourself mentally to begin your university year:

You have at last entered your chosen Faculty to study the disciplines you enjoy, but perhaps you feel a bit lost, left to your own devices, surrounded by new impressions, or even crushed by the weight of the institution; you are questioning everything and wondering if you are the only one who does not know how to get organised – in short you may feel totally overwhelmed. 

Take heart – this is normal! Everyone feels like that when they start university.  The Faculty of Humanities allows you great freedom of choice, which you need to harness to meet your specific needs. Do not keep your worries to yourself, try to find answers from your teachers, the student counsellors, department secretariats or the student secretariat.  This is also a good chance to get chatting and comparing notes with other students.   

If you realise you have made a mistake and the Faculty of Humanities does not meet your expectations, there are three solutions:

(1)  Within the first three weeks of the semester you can change the orientation of your studies and sign up with another Faculty (with the exception of the Faculty of Translation and Interpretation (FTI) and the Faculty of Medicine).  In order to register this change, you will need to go along with your student card or some form of valid ID, to the Admissions service in Uni Dufour.

(2) Beyond this time-limit, you can ask to be ex-matriculated by going to the above-mentioned Admissions service during the first semester.  If you decide to ex-matriculate during the second semester, but wish to come back to the Faculty the following year, you will only be readmitted on a conditional basis.

(3) Finally, you can complete the year to the best of your ability (you must obtain a minimum of 24 credits by the end of the year) and then proceed to change Faculties by going to see the Admissions service between 1st July and 15th August.

If you feel that you have not had sufficient training in note-taking, time-management, memorisation strategies or exam preparation, the University of Geneva runs workshops “Réussir ses études” (“Succeeding in your Studies”):   You can also contact Ms Delphine Rinaldi (Delphine.Rinaldi(at)

If you are suffering from psychological problems (stress, eating disorders, sleep disorders, depression, sexual problems, relationship problems, difficulties due to migration, or attention-deficit disorder), you can contact the centre for psychological counselling:

Welcome to the Faculty of Humanities!