Institut für Föderalismus
Faculté de droit

Summer University

Federalism, Decentralisation and Conflict Resolution,
18 September – 6 October 2017


Application now open

Federalism and decentralisation are crucial mechanisms to share power and limit power abuse. 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), more and more people see some form of vertical power-sharing as the closest institutional approximation to the multinational reality of contemporary societies. 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.

The Chair of Swiss and Comparative Constitutional Law in cooperation with the Institute of Federalism of the University of Fribourg reacts to the ever increasing interest in federalism, decentralisation and conflict resolution by offering a three-week course on Federalism, Decentralisation and Conflict Resolution.


About the Summer University:

Course Description

During the course, participants will study theories of federalism and decentralisation 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. Case studies will include Belgium, Ethiopia, Great Britain, India, Iraq, Italy, Nepal, Spain, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Switzerland, the USA and Yemen. The course combines lectures, group works and presentations by international guests and participants.

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.


The course is open to Master students of the Law Faculty of the University of Fribourg as well as to students from other faculties and Swiss and foreign universities. 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. A good knowledge of English and a strong interest in the topics of federalism, decentralisation and conflict resolution are preconditions for applying.


The working language will be English.


An oral exam will take place at the end of the Course. Successful students will receive a Course Diploma.


Successful participants will be credited 5 ECTS. Additional 5 ECTS can be made by writing a paper on a relevant topic.


Students of the Fribourg Law Faculty apply online by using Gestens.

All other participants apply by filling in the online application form or by sending their CV and motivation letter electronically to Mrs Yvonne Heiter-Steiner. The deadline for application is 31st May 2017. Candidates will receive confirmation by 9th june 2017. For late application (only possible for participants not requiring a visa), please contact Mrs Yvonne Heiter-Steiner.


The course is free of charge for local and Erasmus students of the University of Fribourg and for students joining the course via a University exchange program.

Participants who are not enrolled as master students pay a course fee of CHF 1000. The fee includes tuition fees, course materials and all other costs related to the attendance of the course.

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


The course fee has to be paid until 31 July 2017.

Further information will be communicated by email.


Institute of Federalism

University of Fribourg
Av. Beauregard 1
1700 Fribourg
Phone +41 26 300 8125

Further Information