CAS in Comparative Public Policy

The topic

The keys to successful implementation processes

Public policy is the sum of the decisions made and actions taken in a concerted manner by the political and administrative actors who are trying to resolve a public problem. Public policy analysis aims to explain how the programmes and strategies of public action are developed and implemented, as well as to identify their effects on target groups and the groups affected by the public problem.

The difficulties encountered by both the public and private actors responsible for the implementation of public policies require the development of intelligent strategies that will help to avoid, or at least reduce, objections to the different possible ways of making those policies a reality. These different types of objections can be observed in the frequent opposition seen to infrastructure projects (e.g. a wind farm, an asylum seekers’ centre, transport or military infrastructure), the implementation of new environmental regulations (e.g. a clean-up order, compulsory environmental compensation payments), the implementation of social aid programmes (e.g. disputes relating to invalidity insurance, health insurance, housing benefits, or aid to migrants or refugees), the implementation of school reforms (e.g. Switzerland’s HarmoS agreement or the canton of Vaud’s EVM reform) or decisions on fiscal taxation (e.g. appeals against tax decisions, tax fraud).

Putting such strategies into place necessitates a deep understanding of the range of potential actors intervening in the implementation processes, regulations, procedures, and political and administrative arrangements that enable the more or less participative implementation of these projects. These are also the actors involved in the action plans that prepare the way for decisions about the concrete implementation of these policies in the field. This course aims to provide participants with the analytical tools to identify and deeply comprehend the conditions necessary for the successful implementation of public policy in Switzerland—but it will also help them to identify the conditions that will create obstacles or even failure.

  • A deeper knowledge of the constituent elements of public policy, notably the stages and products of public policy (scheduling, planning, implementation and evaluation), causal models, actors, institutional rules and resources for action
  • A detailed understanding of the implementation procedures, techniques, instruments and strategies for different sectoral policies in different cantons and communes
  • The ability to identify the conditions necessary for successful public policy implementation as well as the obstacles and factors which might lead to failure
  • The capacity to develop alternative, innovative and effective public policy implementation strategies
  • A practical command of using comparative analytical approaches on sectoral policies and/or territorial institutions (States, cantons, communes)


Target audience

This course is aimed at any individuals involved in the development and implementation of public policies:

  • Political decision-makers
  • Individuals working in federal, cantonal and local administrations
  • Individuals working for private organisations (foundations, charities, not-for-profit associations, NGOs) who are consulted on or responsible for implementing public programmes within the framework of delegated public responsibilities
  • Individuals working for representative organisations or think tanks participating in the development of public policies
  • Students studying for the MAS in Public Administration (MPA)


Speakers (subject to modifications)
Name Function
Anne-Lise Cantiniaux Department of Territory, Cantonal Office for Agriculture and Nature, Landscape and Forests Division, Republic and Canton of Geneva
Nicolas Pauchard Science Officer, Swiss Science Council, Bern
Serge Brélaz Head of the Audit Section, Federal Social Insurance Office, Bern
Dominique Biedermann Independent director and former Director of the Ethos Foundation
Frédéric Varone Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva
Pierre-Henri Bombenger Professor of Development and Urban Planning, Institute of Territorial Engineering, HEIG-VD
Philipp Trein Senior SNSF Researcher, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva
Programme (subject to modifications)
Day Date Topics
1 15.09.21 Introduction, an overview of the main concepts and definitions, and the choice of subjects for the seminar work
2 22.09.21 The different categories of actors involved in public policies
3 29.09.21 The implementation of public policies and actors’ resources
4 06.10.21 Institutional rules and local regulatory arrangements
5 13.10.21 Methodological tools for research
6 20.10.21 Action plans
7 03.11.21 Political and administrative arrangements
8 10.11.21 Political and administrative programmes
9 17.11.21 The judicialisation of public policy
10 24.11.21 The explanatory approach and the logic of the comparative method
11 01.12.21 Discussions with actors in the field of public policy
12 15.12.21 Presentation of participants’ seminar work
Teaching methods

Teaching is based upon closely tying theoretical inputs and their empirical applications, notably via student’s carrying out a small research project (seminar work) on the course’s topic (comparative analysis of contested and non-contested cases of the implementation of a public policy).

The course is structured so as to accompany participants through the different stages involved in completing their seminar work.

Teaching days are organised so as to alternate classes on theory, practical exercises, presentations of case studies resulting from research work, talks by external speakers and discussions around the interim reports on course work being carried out by participants.


Qualifications and Certificates

Participants who actively and regularly attend the course, and complete the course project, will be awarded a Foundation of Continuing Education certificate of continuing education/Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Public Administration (with a specialisation in CEMAP). This corresponds to 10 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits. Participants who follow the course but decide not to complete the project work will receive a certificate of attendance (but no ECTS credits).

Continuing Education regulations

Practical information

Program manager

Prof. Stéphane Nahrath

+41 21 692 68 45

Dates, time and locations

Every Wednesdays from September to December 2023. From 9.15 a.m. to 4.15 p.m., in the IDHEAP building.

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. Stéphane Nahrath
+41 21 692 69 40

Studies Secretariat
+41 21 692 68 13

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