Summer Courses

General Information


The University of Geneva is the heir to the Academy founded by Calvin in 1559. It became a University in 1873 with the creation of a Faculty of Medicine.

The UNIGE is the third largest university in Switzerland in terms of student numbers and had almost 40% international students in 2017.

In 2016, the University was ranked 53rd among world universities in the Shanghai ranking, 95th by the QS World University and 131st by the TIMES World University ranking.

Today, it has nine faculties, thirteen Interfaculty Centres and the Maison des Langues.

It brings together more than 16,000 students and 3,500 professors and staff on three main sites.


The Summer Courses in French, founded at the University of Geneva in 1891, were the first so-called "holiday" courses in history, intended for a non-French-speaking public at university level. They originated from the Séminaire de français moderne, created the same year by Professor Charles Thudicum, dedicated to teaching French to German candidates for the state examination. The Summer Courses, then called Holiday Courses, were aimed at French teachers from German schools who could only travel to Geneva in the summer. As the first holiday courses in history, they contributed, together with the Séminaire de français moderne, to the introduction of French as a living language, which André Reboullet named "French as a foreign language" in 1957, into the academic world. Illustrious and passionate personalities contributed to the influence of the University of Geneva's holiday courses in Europe between the 19th and 20th centuries: Bernard Bouvier, Charles and Georges Thudicum, Charles Bally, Albert Séchehaye, Ferdinand de Saussure, Paul Passy. Other institutions followed suit: Neuchâtel in 1893, Lausanne in 1895, the Sorbonne in 1920. In 1925, the École pratique de langue française was founded at the University of Geneva. It was intended for students from all faculties wishing to improve their oral and written French. The École pratique de langue française and the Séminaire de français moderne merged in 1968 to become the École de langue et de civilisation françaises. The Holiday Courses changed their name to Summer Courses in 1984 and lost their exclusive character for teachers. They are open to a varied public, with special courses for teachers. The Séminaire de français moderne, the Cours de vacances and the École pratique de langue française have been attached to the Faculté des Lettres since their creation and have contributed to the emergence of a new disciplinary field: the didactics of foreign languages.

The Summer School and the École de langue et de civilisation françaises continue to maintain very close links, both from an academic and an institutional point of view. The directors of the Summer Courses are traditionally attached to the teaching staff of the School of French Language and Civilisation. In 2012, the Maison des Langues was created, on the initiative of the Rectorate and the ELCF, in order to broaden the offer of modern language teaching to non-specialist students and to the whole university community. Since its creation, its mission has gone beyond that of a simple language centre and has become more of a centre of expertise in the field of language teaching, serving the promotion and development of language skills and plurilingualism within the academic community. The French Summer School attracts every year about a thousand students from all over the world (about 100 different nationalities are represented), who come to Geneva to learn French and discover Switzerland, its languages, its culture and its institutions. In recent years, the proportion of non-French speaking Swiss students has steadily increased, becoming the most represented population in 2020. The Summer Schools thus play a role in the cohesion of the Swiss national identity, through the discovery and learning of its linguistic and cultural diversity.

The French Summer School will celebrate its 130th anniversary in 2021. Throughout their history, they have contributed to the construction of the Swiss and, more widely, European identity. In addition to the language courses, the Summer School also includes lectures on historical, social and political issues related to federalism and democracy in Switzerland. In 2019, the opening lecture was on the Swiss model of direct democracy and was moderated by Mrs Ruth Dreifuss. In addition, FDFA experts give annual lectures on Swiss politics, society and institutions.  All of these initiatives are aimed at fostering inter-knowledge and inter-understanding between the different linguistic regions and at promoting the Swiss model of living together to the many international students.

Our courses have always been accompanied by numerous workshops and cultural activities, in order to familiarise students with a regional history and experience. Pronunciation courses are an important part of the programme.

The success of this formula has resulted in a significant increase in the number of participants over the past century, from 98 in the first year to over 1,000 today.

We welcome students of all backgrounds and ages (from 17 years old), making our courses a truly intercultural experience.


  •  Intensive French courses are open to everyone from the age of 17.
  • Registration for the French Summer School is only possible online. Payment is required at the end of the registration.
  • The courses are fee-based for everyone. We do not offer scholarships or free tuition.
  • We accept the following payment methods: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, PostFinance Card, Paysafecard, PayPal, Twint.
  • An automatic e-mail will be sent to you once your registration has been validated.
  • If the payment fails, you will have to restart your registration from the beginning.
  • Courses are not held on public holidays (1st August, Swiss National Day). There are no catch-up or refund options.
  •  Cancellation and refunds are possible up to 2 weeks before the start of the course.
  • All requests for cancellation must be sent by e-mail to cefle(at)
  • In the case of a refund, an administration fee of CHF 100.- will be deducted.
  • In case of cancellation for administrative or medical reasons (no visa, border closure, flight cancellation, quarantine, illness, etc.) and upon presentation of supporting evidence, reimbursement is possible for a fee of CHF 50.- and no later than 72 hours before the course starts.
  • In the event of absence during the course period for administrative or medical reasons (work requirements, quarantine, illness, etc.) and upon presentation of supporting evidence, reimbursement is possible at a cost of CHF 50.- in administrative fees only if the period of absence exceeds 3 days of course.