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University of the Witwatersrand, Oliver Schreiner School of Law, Johannesburg

Founded in 1922, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) is inextricably linked with mining, scholarship excellence, and political and civic activism. With a current student population of 36,500 and more than 100,000 graduates in its almost 100-year history, Wits continues to make its mark both nationally and internationally.

Wits’ Oliver Schreiner School of Law has built an outstanding academic reputation and undertaken a sustained stance against social injustice, earning it the respect of the international community and attracting students and researchers from around the world. The School of Law has particular strengths in constitutional law, environmental law, administrative law, and public interest law, among other areas. Wits is home to a number of clinics and research centers, including the Wits Law Clinic, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, and the Mandela Institute, which focuses on law and global economic policy. It also publishes the South African Journal on Human Rights, the most cited legal publication in South Africa.

Wits is proud to have some of South Africa’s pre-eminent legal academics on its faculty. Members of staff have acted as advisors and consultants to government departments, international organizations, and businesses in the private sector.

Course Offerings and Credit

HLS J.D. students studying at Wits for a semester are able to choose from a wide range of LL.B. and LL.M. courses. Generally, Wits requests that exchange students take at least one LL.B. course to help better integrate them into the law school’s social and academic environment. The LL.M.program includes specializations in commercial and business law, corporate law, environmental law, human rights advocacy and litigation, information and communications law, international law, international economic law, labor law, pensions law, and tax law.

Course loads will vary from student to student. HLS students may receive a total of 10 to 12 ungraded classroom credits in relation to work done through the semester abroad program. Please see Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements for more information about course requirements and how semester abroad credits are calculated.

Language Proficiency

All courses and exams at Wits are conducted in English; study materials are also provided in English.

Academic Calendar

The academic year is divided into two semesters; each semester is divided into two teaching blocks, followed by exams. The first semester (first and second teaching blocks) runs from February through May, with exams continuing into June; the second semester (second and third teaching blocks) runs from mid-July through October, with exams in November. The current academic calendar is posted on the Wits website.

Application Process

Students interested in the Wits exchange program should follow the HLS Semester Abroad application process described on the Semester Abroad: Planning and Application page.

HLS will inform students nominated to study at Wits if there are any additional application materials to complete.

The exchange agreement with Wits stipulates that one HLS JD student may study at Wits each year. HLS may recommend more than one candidate but ultimately selections will be made by Wits.


The School of Law is located on Wits’ West Campus, in Braamfontein, a lively neighborhood connected to the city center by the Nelson Mandela Bridge. The campus offers natural history and medical museums, galleries, theaters and other performance spaces, and a planetarium. There are also over 100 student organizations and societies, ranging in interests from politics and debate to scuba diving.

The School of Law’s close proximity to the Constitutional Court of South Africa makes Wits an ideal location to study the fascinating constitutional law issues particular to South Africa.  Off campus, Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, offers restaurants and nightclubs, markets and museums, and all the other trappings of a cosmopolitan city.


Accommodations for exchange students are generally arranged at the International House. Students need to apply well in advance on the relevant application form, available by request from the Wits International Students Office.

Contact Information

For further information, please contact Sara Zucker at (617) 495-9030 / or Andre Barbic at (617) 496-8732 /