Summer University


Dear friends of the IFF,


In Spring 2020, the global situation unfortunately forced the cancellation of the 2020 edition of the Summer University on Federalism, Decentralization and Conflict Resolution.


A few months ago, we were optimistic about the outcome of the pandemic and confident when announcing the dates of the 2021 edition. Unfortunately, the current situation does not give us sufficient guarantees on the international situation in the summer 2021 and we sadly must postpone the Summer University once again.


We have therefore decided to announce the new dates for the 2022 edition of the Summer University which will take place from August 22 to September 9, 2022, in Fribourg. The application process will begin in fall 2021.


We also are glad to announce you that we will revive the network of alumni and friends! Among the new activities, we will host on-line seminars every 6 weeks and organize a yearly conference. More information will follow soon!


The IFF team wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Stay safe!


Call for Applications

Federalism and decentralisation are crucial mechanisms to share power and limit abuse of power. Since federalism and decentralisation combine shared action for specific purposes (e.g. defence, external relations, economic development) with autonomous action for other purposes (e.g. education, culture, health), such vertical power sharing is considered as being necessary to accommodate the multinational and multi-ethnic composition of most societies today. Federalism and decentralisation are not only seen as tools for power sharing, minority accommodation and inclusive state-building but also as a means for ensuring good governance, fostering democracy and contributing to development. It does therefore not come as a surprise that theories and practices of federalism and decentralisation are discussed and put to the test throughout the world.

Vertical power sharing is topical in both stable as well as conflict-ridden societies, and can play a decisive role in post-conflict situations. During the last three decades, federalism and decentralisation have become important instruments for conflict transformation and resolution. Especially in countries characterised by state failure or fragility and/or inter-group conflicts, federalism and decentralisation are more and more often used to guarantee autonomy to marginalised groups and to provide access to power at the centre. Peace treaties typically provide for some form of power sharing between the conflicting groups and their territories. Linking federalism and decentralisation to peace-making and transition processes has therefore become an important research field.

  • Course Description

    The Institute of Federalism, a nationally and internationally recognised centre of expertise in the field of governance, is organising its 29th Summer University on Federalism, Decentralisation and Conflict Resolution from 17 August until 4 September 2020. During the course, participants will study theories of federalism, decentralisation, forms of power sharing and their links with good governance, democracy, development and conflict resolution. They will examine a variety of power sharing arrangements in established federal states and newly federalising and decentralising ones, and will discuss the situation of those using power sharing mechanism to resolve or mitigate internal conflicts, will examine international law in multilevel governance. Case studies will include Ethiopia, India, Iraq, Nepal, Spain, South Africa, Syria, Switzerland, the USA and Yemen. The course combines lectures, group works and presentations by international lecturers and participants.

    In 2018, around 50 participants from around the globe attended the programme and over 1000 people are now part of the Summer University alumni.

  • Course Objectives

    The course enables students to enhance their knowledge about federalism, decentralisation and other forms of power sharing, especially when it comes to the chances they offer and the limits they face with regard to the transformation and resolution of intra-state conflicts. Students are provided insights into methodological and practical knowledge on conflict resolution.

  • Participants

    The course is aimed at advanced students who hold at least a bachelor degree of law, political science, economics, history, journalism or other related sciences and young professionals keen to improve their knowledge of federalism, decentralisation and conflict resolution. The course is open to Master students of the Law Faculty of the University of Fribourg as well as to students from other faculties of Swiss and foreign universities. Ph. D scholars working on topics related to the general themes are welcome to apply. A good working knowledge of English and a strong interest in the topics of federalism, decentralisation and conflict resolution are preconditions for applying. For any questions regarding your qualifications and eligibility, please feel free to contact us by email (See below).

  • Language

    The working language will be English.

  • Examination / Evaluation

    A written exam will take place at the end of the Course and successful students will receive a Diploma in Federalism, Decentralisation and Conflict Resolution by the Institute of Federalism and the University of Fribourg. Students registered at the Law Faculty of the University of Fribourg and exchange students will be eligible for obtaining ECTS credits towards their Master’s Degree. All participants will receive a certificate of participation.

  • Credits

    For students registered at Law Faculty of the University of Fribourg and exchange students, successful participation in the three -week course (and examination) is credited with 5 ECTS points. Additional 5 ECTS points can be obtained by successfully writing a final research paper on a relevant topic.

  • Application

    Students of the Fribourg Law Faculty apply online by using GEFRI or by email to Mrs Yvonne Heiter-Steiner until15 July 2020.

    All other participants apply by filling in the online application form or by sending their CV, motivation letter and letter of reference electronically to Mrs Yvonne Heiter-Steiner. The deadline for application is Monday 31st March 2020. Candidates will receive a decision on their admission by Monday, 20th April 2020. For late application (only possible for participants not requiring a visa), please contact Mrs Yvonne Heiter-Steiner.

    Participants will be required to confirm their participation on notification of their admission in writing, without which the place will be allotted to the next person on the waiting list.

    Before starting, please have the following documents in electronic format ready (pdf, jpg, jpeg):

    • copy of your highest educational diploma (minimum bachelor degree)
    • one letter of reference (does not apply for professors)
    • copy of your CV

    Be aware that it is not possible to save and continue later.

    The application window is open until 31st March 2020.

    Issues with the online application? Please contact Mrs. Yvonne Heiter-Steiner.


  • Costs

    The course fee is CHF 250 (including tuition, course materials, excursions, farewell dinner, access to the library of the Institute and internet access).

    Not covered by the course fee are the following costs:

    • travel costs to and from the course location
    • accommodation
    • meals
    • transportation within Fribourg
    • visa
    • health insurance
    • personal expenses during stay in Fribourg

    Accommodation Fees: CHF 1’025

    Participants requiring accommodation with half board in student accommodation can avail of this, room with attached bathroom, breakfast and dinner.

  • Payment

    The course fee has to be paid by 31th July 2020.
    Further information will be communicated by email.


    For students from the University of Fribourg:

    • GEFRI registration: 8th -15th July 2020
  • Location

    University of Fribourg, Perolles II, Fribourg, Switzerland

    Accommodation: Convict Salesianum, Fribourg, Switzerland

  • Contact

    Institute of Federalism
    University of Fribourg
    Av. Beauregard 1
    1700 Fribourg

     +41 26 300 8125

     Mrs. Yvonne Heiter-Steiner

Next Summer University will take place from 22 August - 9 September 2022.

online application form

Further Information

 Mrs Yvonne Heiter-Steiner, Executive Secretary




Convict Salesianum