Politics and institutions | POIN

Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS)

The topic

Barack Obama once remarked that the job of the government is to “get stuff done”. Although he was probably not thinking about Switzerland, it might be difficult to find experts who would disagree with the postulate that, from a comparative perspective, Switzerland has always been relatively skilled at solving problems and managing conflicts, two essential tasks performed within democracies. This course systematically studies Switzerland’s political system in order to examine whether this judgement is (still) true. To do so, the course i) traces the historical development of Switzerland’s political system, ii) decodes the country’s institutional architecture, and iii) critically examines contemporary challenges and their implications for Swiss politics.

  • Trace the historical development of Switzerland’s political system and decoding its institutional architecture.
  • Understand how different institutions affect politics, policies, and the public administration.
  • Critically examine contemporary challenges and their implications for Swiss politics.
Target audience
  • Students studying for the MAS in public administration (MPA);
  • Students studying for the DAS in public administration;
  • Employees in federal and cantonal administrations;
  • Political representatives;
  • Journalists and other interested observers of Switzerland’s political landscape.
Programme (subject to modifications)
  1. What the State is and what it does: A problem-solving perspective.
  2. Institutional theory: what institutions are, how they are created, how they change and how they influence politics.
  3. The genesis of Switzerland’s political system.
  4. The crucial components of Switzerland’s political system: direct democracy, federalism, and consensualism.
  5. The contemporary challenges that Switzerland’s political system confronts: the intensification of political conflict, policy growth and administrative overburdening, and a changing geopolitical landscape.

Hall, Peter A., and Rosemary C. R. Taylor (1996). “Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms.” Political Studies, 44(5): 936–57.

Hinterleitner, Markus (2020). Policy Controversies and Political Blame Games. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Hinterleitner, Markus, and Fritz Sager (2022). “Political Challengers and Norm Erosion in Advanced Democracies.” European Journal of Political Research, early view.

Hinterleitner, Markus, and Stefan Wittwer (2022). “Serving Quarrelling Masters: Frontline Workers and Policy Implementation under Pressure.” Governance, early view.

Hinterleitner, Markus, Christoph Knill, and Yves Steinebach (2023). “The Growth of Policies, Rules, and Regulations: A Review of the Literature and Research Agenda.” Regulation & Governance, early view.

Hinterleitner, Markus, Fritz Sager, and Kathleen Thelen (2024). Classical institutional theories and institutional change, in: Adrian Vatter, and Rahel Freiburghaus (eds), Handbook of Comparative Political Institutions. Edward Elgar.

Ladner, Andreas, Nils Soguel, Yves Emery, Sophie Weerts, and Stéphane Nahrath (eds) (2019). Swiss Public Administration – Making the State Work Successfully. Palgrave MacMillan.

Maissen, Thomas (2019). Histoire de la Suisse. Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

Papadopoulos, Yannis, Pascal Sciarini, Adrian Vatter, Silja Häusermann, Patrick Emmenegger, and Flavia Fossati (2022). Handbuch der Schweizer Politik – Manuel de la politique suisse. NZZ Libro.

Sager, Fritz, and Christine Zollinger (2011). The Swiss political system in comparative perspective. In Christine Trampusch & André Mach (Eds.), Switzerland in Europe: Continuity and change in the Swiss political economy (pp. 27–42). Routledge.

Vatter, Adrian (2008). Vom Extremtyp zum Normalfall? Die schweizerische Konsensusdemokratie im Wandel: Eine Re-Analyse von Lijpharts Studie für die Schweiz von 1997 bis 2007. Swiss Political Science Review, 14: 1-47.

Vatter, Adrian (2016). Das politische System der Schweiz. Baden-Baden: Nomos UTB.

Practical information and Registration

Main teaching language


Dates, time, place

Every Tuesdays, from 7 November to 12 December, 2023 from 9.15 a.m. to 4.15 p.m., in the IDHEAP building.

Registration deadline


I want to register

Click here to register. The number of participants is limited and registrations are processed on a first come first served basis.


Registration fees

Total course registration fees come to CHF 3,900 (including all documentation), which should be paid on receipt of the invoice, and by the start of the course at the latest.
A discount of 5%, up to a maximum of CHF 500 per course, is available to any IDHEAP alumni—holding an MPA, DAS or CEMAP, an IDHEAP PhD or a Master’s in PMP—who wish to follow a CAS course or a Seminar for Specialist and Executives organised by IDHEAP. This reduction does not apply to participants in the DAS who subsequently wish to follow the MPA course. Any decision to withdraw from the course must be made in writing. If withdrawal from the course is announced between 21 and ten days prior to its commencement, 50% of the registration fee will remain due. If withdrawal from the course is announced less than ten days before its commencement, the entire registration fee is due. The number of places being limited, registrations will be considered on the basis of the date of receipt.

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Course Manager
Prof. Markus Hinterleitner
+41 21 692 68 60

Studies Secretariat
Fatma Yavavli
+41 21 692 69 17

Rue de la Mouline 28 - CH-1022 Chavannes-près-Renens
Tel. +41 21 692 68 00
Fax +41 21 692 68 09