Equality Policy in Comparative Approach

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Course Description: 

Elective course

Social Justice and Human Rights specialization for DPP

The main aim of this course is to familiarize students with how the abstract legal principle of and political claims for equality is turned into policy and practice in Europe and beyond. Starting from what equality means as a basic legal principle and right in modern democratic systems, the course will move on to critically analyze the policy visions, policy approaches and policy tools used to put equality into practice.

The course will look at equality ideas and interventions through the lens of various grounds of inequality: race and ethnicity, gender, and disability and devote special attention to the intersection between different inequality axes. The focus will be on domestic and international policy practices as those developed in the last decades and will reflect upon recent challenges to equality thinking. Students will be encouraged to bring in the discussion issues and cases from the policy environments with which they are most familiar and look into how equality policy practices can travel across countries and regions.

Learning Outcomes: 

The course will sensitize students interested in issues of governance, politics, and public policy to challenges of social diversity, cleavages and distinctions that are pertinent to developed and new democracies and societies in transformations. Due to the nature of the topic, the course will invite students to develop their skills of critical thinking by understanding major political and policy debates that shape considerations on the principles of equality and social justice. The teaching method will ensure that students have to regularly synthesize different pieces of knowledge (discussion of the core readings), to critically evaluate the differences and overlaps of arguments, to translate theoretical notions of equality into policy practice, and to recognize theoretical relevance of policy debates. Students will also learn to work in groups, to do targeted inquiries into relevant policy processes (group work and term paper), and to develop their academic writing skills (written support to the presentation and term paper). 


(1) Students are expected to carefully consult the required readings each week prior to the classes, ideally by taking notes. The questions for discussion assigned to the sessions in the syllabus help students to engage with the readings and identify the main conceptual puzzles, arguments, and debates related to the topic of the session. Active participation in the seminar discussions is expected from all students. Sessions 5-12 will involve policy practice related group work within class. Students are expected to be active participants in the group work and take turns in presenting group findings.

Weight to the grade: 20%

(2) Students are expected to write four position papers related to readings from sessions 5-12. Position papers should reflect on the main arguments of the weekly mandatory reading possibly bringing in the student’s theoretical and empirical background knowledge. Assignments are due at 9 AM of the day of the class for which the assignment is written (i.e. if you are commenting the readings for Class 5, you should submit on the e-learning website by 9 AM of the day when Class 5 takes place).

Weight to the grade: 30%

(3) Students will write a term paper of 2,500-3,000 words. The paper will be connected to the broader topic of the course, can be a more theoretical paper, a policy paper or a case study. Papers will have to link to the literature in assigned to the course. Additional references should be used. Students will be required to start developing their ideas from midterm on, when they will have the opportunity to present and discuss with the class their project ideas. Individual consultations will support students to further develop their projects and papers. The deadline for submitting the paper will be announced four weeks before the end of the semester. The deadline will be adjusted to SPP exam schedules.

Weight to the grade: 50%

All written assignments will be checked for plagiarism via Turnitin. 

Audit Students

Audit students are expected to do all required readings and to actively participate in the class discussions and group work. 


No special prerequisites


In order to comfortably handle the assigned readings and engage in group work, some preliminary readings are offered to the attention of students concerned. Instructors recommend that students who are enrolled in programs other than the master programs at SPP consult the first item below prior to immersing themselves into the course readings. This is to get insights in the basics of the policy language, conceptual frames, and styles of reasoning pertinent to policy studies, and within that, a broader equality agenda.

Paul Cairney (2012) Understanding Public Policy: Theories and Issues. Palgrave MacMillan. Selection.