Summer University

The Institute of Federalism is happy to announce that our renowned three-week Summer University on Federalism, Decentralisation and Conflict Resolution celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2024! It will take place between the 12th and 30th August 2024.

To celebrate this achievement, we are organising a special 2-day conference which will be fully integrated into the Summer University's programme. 

About the Summer University on Federalism, Decentralisation and Conflict Resolution

Questions of minority protection, separation of powers, or inclusion through power-sharing are crucial to current conflicts in many states around the world – from Belgium to Ethiopia, from Iraq to Bosnia and Herzegovina, from Nepal to Ukraine. Federalism and decentralisation therefore continue to be discussed as instruments for resolving violent and non-violent conflicts, for dealing with state failure, and for contributing to democratisation.

However, federalisation processes are neither linear, nor do they always result in a fully functional federal system. How can federal and decentralised structures contribute to peace-building and democratisation? What do the cases of Myanmar, Ethiopia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, teach us about the advantages and disadvantages of federal structures? How do federal systems, including in countries such as Switzerland, adapt to new challenges? What is the future of federalism and decentralisation in the 21st century?

Different forms of power- and resource-sharing between the centre and the territorial units of a state are increasingly recognised as effective mechanisms for the accommodation of minorities and inclusive state-building. Federal and decentralised structures are also promising means for ensuring good governance, fostering democracy and contributing to economic development. During the last three decades, federalism and decentralisation have also become important instruments for conflict transformation and resolution and are often on top of the agenda in peace negotiations. Indeed, there is no contemporary conflict in the world, where aspects of federalism, decentralisation, minority rights, and/or power-sharing are not being discussed.

  • Course Description

    The International Research and Consulting Center at the Institute of Federalism and the Chair for Constitutional and Administrative Law at the University of Fribourg offer a three-week course on Federalism, Decentralisation and Conflict Resolution. The course aims to provide a series of lectures, held by the Institute’s staff and renowned guest lecturers, covering theoretical perspectives and analyses of specific case studies from all over the world. The topics covered include: 

    • Federalism and Decentralisation as Concepts
    • Power-sharing in Theory and Practice
    • Multilevel Governance, Intergovernmental Relations and Fiscal Federalism
    • Conflict Resolution and Imposed Federalism
    • Fundamental Rights and Diversity Management 

    In addition, a range of activities, including group work and simulations, will enable participants to apply the knowledge gained to real-life cases and discuss the trade-offs and challenges in the application of federal structures.

  • Course Objectives
    • Enhancing knowledge about federalism, decentralisation and other forms of power-sharing
    • Learning about chances and limits of federalism and decentralisation
    • Examining the relationship and practical challenges in the application of federalism and democracy
    • Providing insights into methodological and practical knowledge on conflict resolution and in writing a research paper
  • Prerequisites
    • Minimum prerequisite: bachelor degree of law, political science, international relations, economics, history, journalism or other related subjects.
    • Practitioners with professional experience in the field of federalism, decentralisation and conflict resolution with a keen interest in improving their academic understanding in this field may also be admitted (participants ‘sur dossier’).
  • Language


  • Evaluation and exams
    • Written paper on a selected case study or a comparative study (to be submitted in June 2024/special conditions apply to BeNeFri-students) and presentation of the paper during the course;
    • Written exam at the end of the Summer University;
    • Participation in discussions and regular attendance are also evaluation criteria.
  • Credits for BeNeFri-Students and exchange students
    • 5 ECTS for successful participation in the three -week course (and examination)
    • 5 ECTS additionally for successfully writing a final research paper on a related topic.
  • Application
    • Next Summer University will take place in 2024.

    Application deadline: Sunday, 31 March 2024 at midnight Central European Time

    Candidates will receive confirmation by early April.

    • Students of the Fribourg Law Faculty: 09 - 18 July 2024 (online via GEFRI)

    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.

  • Fees

    CHF 4500.-

    The fees include tuition, course material, excursions, board and accommodation (half-board: breakfast and dinner), access to the library of the Institute and Internet access on campus. The fee does not include costs for travel, visa, health insurance and personal expenses.

    The fees do not cover the following costs:

    • Travel costs to and from the course location
    • Transportation within Fribourg
    • Visa
    • Health insurance
    • Personal expenses during stay in Fribourg

    Course fee for BeNeFri-students: CHF 220.-.

  • Payment

    The course fee has to be paid by 31 July 2024.

    Further information will be communicated by email. 

    The Institute of Federalism offers assistance in the identification of funding sources and can provide support letters. We are not in a position to provide any scholarships at this point.

  • Location

    Course location:

    University of Fribourg, Perolles II, Fribourg, Switzerland 


    Convict Salesianum, Av. Moléson 21, 1700 Fribourg

    The student accommodation is situated in a quiet and central area near the station (5-10 minutes on foot). 

    Cité St-Justin, Rue de Rome 3, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland

    The student accommodation is situated in the heart of Fribourg, adjacent to  the University Miséricorde.

    The accommodation provides single rooms with either an en-suite or a shared bathroom on the same floor. The rooms will be randomly allocated by the organisers.

  • Contact

    Yvonne Heiter-Steiner

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

     +41 26 300 8125