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Published on October 14, 2020 by Content admin

Ever thought about studying law abroad? Consider Switzerland! Between the fondue and the Swiss Alps, you will find a whole range of opportunities in a country that is home to the United Nations HQ and a hub for investment and banking institutions.

There are nine law schools in Switzerland including: The University of Zurich, University of St. Gallen, University of Lausanne, University of Basel, University of Bern, University of Fribourg, University of Geneva and the  University of Lucerne.

If you’re considering studying abroad, it is important to understand what studying law abroad will involve. Besides all the lifestyle changes associated with studying abroad, having to adapt to different courses (let alone a different country) can be difficult.

There is a considerable difference between pursuing legal studies in England and Switzerland. On that note, here is a list of four things that will help you get an idea of what studying law in Switzerland is like as an exchange student:


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Different Country, Different Language

The main languages spoken in Switzerland are French, German and Italian, and the language your courses are taught in depends on what region your host university is located in. Luckily, though, if you don’t speak a second language, many law faculties offer a range of English taught courses for you to choose from. It might still be worth taking a language course as well, however, just to grasp basic day-to-day vocabulary.

Back to the Classroom

Language aside, the teaching, readings and structure of your courses may differ greatly. The first thing to note is the possibility of much smaller classes than the standard lecture theatre that we may be used to (in my experience, anyway). This allows for your classes to be far more discursive than the average lecture. So, try your best to not shy away from public speaking!

Secondly, the in-depth class discussions mean that the presentation slides or handouts may not always be detailed enough to gain an understanding of the subject. Attending classes regularly is crucial, otherwise, you might miss helpful explanations on reading materials or analysis.

Thirdly, you may also have different types of courses. For example, you can enrol for block courses, which can be completed within a shorter period than a semester (i.e. anywhere from a week to a month). However, classes can often be longer (sometimes lasting 4-5 hours).

Common Law vs Civil Law

Switzerland has a civil law legal system based on statutes and codes, whereas the English legal system is based on common law. The way court trials proceed in Switzerland are more inquisitorial and less adversarial, meaning the judge has more of an investigative and active role. Taking a course on the basics of the Swiss Legal system might help clarify the Swiss Constitution and the court system. This will also supplement your studies in any international law courses, which will require a good grasp of the characteristics of both common law and civil law.

A Different Take on Exams

Last but not least, exams can be daunting, but it is important to adapt to the different forms of assessment. You could have a mixture of both written and oral exams. Oral examination is a form of assessment many of us are not used to, so asking your lecturer how the exam will be structured is crucial. For example, they could involve you solving a problem scenario and talking about the reasoning for your answers, or you may have oral exams in small groups. In addition, class presentations that contribute to your final grade are quite common.

To sum up, Switzerland is a great place to study law to gain a more global perspective, not to mention an amazing place to travel. So, if you keep up to date with classes and know what is required of you in exams, you can find plenty of time to socialise, travel and, of course, squeeze in a bit of Swiss chocolate!

Words: Natasha Dayananda 


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