CAS in Territorial Governance: Federalism and Local Policy

The topic

Cantons and communes are the pillars of Switzerland’s institutional order, as well as central elements of its identity. Federalism has traditionally stressed the importance of diverse and autonomous units on lower levels, often considered as the cradles of the country’s democratic ideals.

This relatively complex territorial structure of the country is currently confronted with numerous challenges. From an institutional point of view, the territorial divisions between communes no longer correspond to today’s cultural and economic realities. As to their means of functioning, the growing importance of criteria relating to efficiency, ever-increasing complexity and the international integration of public policies challenge communes and cantons in various ways.

This course highlights these challenges in a multidisciplinary manner. It aims to identify the characteristic traits of Switzerland’s brand of federalism, how it functions, its strengths and weaknesses, as well as the principal reform projects underway in the field of territorial governance (e.g. the repartition of tasks and fiscal equalisation, reinforcing collaboration between cantons). The course examines Switzerland’s communal system in the same way, with all its specificities: the small size of communes, their great diversity, plans for communal fusions, how they carry out public policies and their influences on their cantons and on the Confederation itself. An emphasis is also placed upon a comparative analysis of cantons and communes (e.g. structures, institutions, political party systems).

The course ends with thoughts about how Switzerland’s territorial organisation and the repartition of tasks might be reorganised.

  • Understand the structure and functioning of Switzerland territorial divisions;
  • Clarify the roles of the cantons and communes in the definition and implementation of public policies;
  • Identify the challenges facing Switzerland’s brand of federalism and its communes;
  • Analyse the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration between cantons or between communes;
  • Evaluate the pertinence of the reforms to territorial governance that are already underway or planned;
  • Understand the challenges created by urban agglomerations, regions and by the different solutions proposed;
  • Understand the concept of multi-level governance.
Target audience
  • Students studying for the MAS in Public Administration (MPA);
  • Employees in federal and cantonal administrations;
  • Political representatives at all levels;
  • Journalists and other observers interested in Switzerland’s political life.
Discussed subjects

The course revolves around issues concerning federalism, cantons and municipalities. All the themes are presented in such a way as to give a coherent and current vision of the territorial organization and the distribution of tasks in Switzerland:

  • Origin of Swiss federalism, functions and operation
  • State, role and importance of municipalities
  • Current challenges
  • Agglomerations and regions
  • Multi-level governance
Speakers (subject to modifications)
Programme (subject to modifications)
Territorial governance - Space and politics
Swiss federalism - Laboratory and research object
The horizontal axis: collaboration or fusion?
The vertical axis: implementation or partnership?
Optimal solutions (economic aspects of federalism)
Division of tasks and equalization (RPT)
Agglomerations - Regions (tripartism, regions)
The Switzerland of tomorrow - ARE
Municipalities and cities: opportunity and challenges
Seminar work workshops
Dialogues, platforms and new forms of governance
Closing day
Teaching methods

The course is based on interactive teaching methods which encourage active student participation. It mixes ex-cathedra lectures, work in groups, lecturers and speakers from outside IDHEAP and debates. Participants prepare for each class or activity by reading a selection of chosen texts.

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 and Registration

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. Andreas Ladner
+41 21 692 68 60

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