ARCHIVE - 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.


  • French is the main teaching language for this program
  • More information available on the corresponding pages
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Course Manager
Prof. Andreas Ladner
+41 21 692 68 60

Studies Secretariat
+41 21 692 69 17

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