Comparative European Politics

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

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Course Description: 

This course deals with contemporary challenges for democracy in Europe. This course introduces the literature from different fields in comparative politics, and combines them with frontiers of democracy research dealing with the crisis, the stability, and challenges to democracy in Europe. Research fields that are covered in this course include transitions towards democracy and non-democratic regimes, the quality of democracy and political institutions, political cleavages, social movements and parties, and citizens' participation. 

Topics are adjusted to reflect the current debates about democracy in Europe, they include in particular perspectives on the Russian war against Ukraine, and the perspectives for countries in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. The rise of populist/authoritarian political parties, and their vision of democracy. The transformation of political cleavages: is the rise of transnational political divides a condition for democracy in the EU? Separatism, ethnic conflict, and the challenges to establish democracy in divided societies or in post-war countries. 

Empirically, the course offers an insight into a variety of political countries in Europe, and it looks at the state of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and in Western Europe. 



Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students will

  • be familiar with key topics and concepts in comparative politics.
  • be able to distinguish and analyse political regimes, and possess the instruments tocompare and analyse democratic political systems.
  • will be able to assess the state of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and inWestern Europe, and will be familiar with a selected number of political systems inEurope, and their history.
  • Understand the logic of comparative studies in political science/social science, andconduct comparative analyses.

Attendance and active class-room participation (10 %) - 

Expert for one week or session (30% of the grade) Participants have to prepare for an expert discussion in class, based on specific preparatory readings.

  • Groups of experts will be assigned to a specific week, and a list of suggested readings.
  • Based on these readings, instead of a full review, they hand in a list of questions to be discussed inclass (2-3 questions per person), by e-mail, and a short elaboration on each of thesequestions/themes, max. 1 page per person. Ideally, the list of questions combines a) some theoreticalaspects, b) methodological issues, and c) it refers to exemplary cases. Show how the questions/themesrelate to the Mandatory readings. Reading lists can be altered, in agreement between the lecturer andthe experts.
  • In class, students will be require to respond to questions in a cohesive way, but do not prepare a linearpresentation (see below). Approx. 8-10 minutes per person.

The topic of the expert discussion can overlap with the topic of the paper, which the student writes in thesecond semester of the seminar.


  • Expert discussions take place between week 4 and week 12.
  • The list of questions needs to be submitted 10 days prior to the class (when the students serve asexperts), but no later than 24 hours prior to a preparatory meeting. (i.e. arrange an office hour at latest9 days before your ‘expert week’)

Short assignments (15% of the grade)

Assignment 1: problem articulationProblem articulation (200-300 words): introduce a research question. Task will be introduced inthe first meeting. Deadline: 25 September 2022, 23.59h

Assignment 2: abstract.Outline of the research design of your final paper. Max. 1 page. Containing research question,preliminary case selection, and idea about the key indicators/variable(s) and theoreticalexpectations (e.g. hypotheses) to be analysed.Deadline: 27 October 2022, 23.59h.

Assignment 3: discussant Discuss the abstract of one other student, and provide comments to each of the otherparticipants of your group (to be defined) at the feedback sessions.2 November or 9 November, schedule to be announced.

Final paper (45 %)

Course participants will submit an empirical, comparative research design, focused on challengesto democracy in Europe, regime transitions, democracy/the quality of democracy in Europe,political institutions in European countries. 3000 words.Deadline: 16 December 2022, 23.59h

Grading criteria:

  • Originality: is there a clear idea behind the research (and is it followed and answered in thepaper)?
  • Theory and hypothesis: is there a well elaborated theoretical argument? Does the argumentlink to the relevant literature discussed in the course?
  • Case selection and choice of appropriate data: is the selection of the cases and data wellexplained and convincing?
  • Fit of theory and empirical analysis: does the design for the empirical analysis fit thetheoretical concept to be investigated?
  • Is the operationalisation clear and valid?
  • Overall structure of the paper: is there a clear golden thread throughout the paper? Doesthe introduction/conclusion refer to the paper, is the research design written and structuredclearly, does it fulfil formal standards, is the structure appropriate?

Late submission: In case of late submissions, three grade points from the final grade of theassignment are deducted for every 12 hours of delay. For instance, submitting 15 hours late leadsto a deduction of six points.

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