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Department of Political Science Democracy Studies

Modules Details

Democracy Studies Module I - Democratic Theory

 This module traces and delineates conceptual and theoretical understandings of democracy. The module allows all participants to develop a good fluency regarding the history and the meanings of the term, as well as many competing interpretations and forms (direct, representative, participatory, deliberative, etc.). The module is also the occasion for the participants to read and discuss a series of classical texts on democracy and to jointly acquire a common vocabulary and shared frames of reference to debate the merits of different understandings and forms of democracy.


Democracy Studies Module II - Empirical Approaches to Democracy

This module presents and explains both classical and contemporary research that apply empirical frameworks to the study of democracy, from Dahl or Almond and Verba to some of the recent important publications on measuring democracy and attitudes. The module surveys a diversity of methodological and epistemological examples and critically reviews both significant qualitative and quantitative research projects. Having acquired a common vocabulary regarding the study of democracy in the previous module, the participants are exposed to a common horizon on democracy research in all its diversity and richness.


Democracy Studies Research Colloquium

This module is a centrepiece of the programme and the element that truly fosters a cohort effect. It gathers twice every academic year. Over the course of their participation, each student has a chance to present three times, and to have their work discussed by their advisor/s, fellow students as well as senior scholars. Given the diversity of research and profiles among participants, the colloquium is also the occasion for every participant to be exposed to research on democracy undertaken following different disciplinary or methodological approaches, and thus to gain new insights and to share their own approaches with others. The extensive time slots planned for each presentation make possible in-depth discussions and allow the doctoral students presenting to benefit from the comments, questions and discussions that follow their presentations. The presenters circulate their article or chapter ahead of time and all the participants attend the colloquium having read these texts and ready to discuss them.


Swiss Summer School in Democracy Studies

Open to all qualified graduate students, advanced master students and postdocs from Zurich and beyond, the Summer School is a yearly event that brings together internationally renowned researchers and junior scholars for a week of lectures and intensive discussions about a chosen topic pertaining to democracy research. It is the occasion for the students to interact with experts in an accessible and collegial environment. After lectures programmed in the mornings, the afternoons are dedicated to student presentations, and the experts serve as the discussants. Past summer schools have been dedicated to themes such as populism, the frontiers of democratic innovations, representation and governance, and democracy and globalization.


Advanced Module on Democracy

The programme regularly organizes advanced courses on democracy to allow the students to further hone their methodological skills and research agenda. Typically organized in the form of bloc seminars, these modules bring together a dozen students and one or two international experts. The modules are highly interactive and seek to expose the students to the latest trends and practices regarding the research conducted on democracy. The themes and sub-disciplines touched upon by these modules vary widely, and often respond to requests directly expressed by the students themselves.


Democracy Studies Workshop - Democracy in Practice

The programme highly values the transfer of knowledge regarding democracy in its different forms and practices beyond the gates of the university, both towards decision-makers, interest groups and the general public. In order to encourage these activities focusing on the practice of democracy, the Doctoral Programme Democracy Studies organises a "Democracy goes to school" workshop in collaboration with the ZDA and the School of Education of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland PH/FHNW.

Pupils of today are active citizens of tomorrow. Yet political education in schools has received little attention in the Swiss educational system. The Center for Democracy Aarau (ZDA) has been committed to promoting civic education through extracurricular programs and teacher training. This workshop wants to give insight into democracy learning and teaching political values to younger generations.

Day 1
The first day of the workshop will be held at the Institute of Political Science UZH with a seminar by Monika Waldis (ZDA and PH/FHNW) on the current state and challenges of civic education in the Swiss school system.

Day 2
On the second day of the workshop, participants will have the chance to engage directly and will get involved in the «SpielPolitik!» Schulen nach Bern // Die Politiksimulation im Bundeshaus simulation game. "SpielPolitik!" aims to promote students' political education and offer them insights into the functioning of national politics and the active discussion of their concerns. In their classes, pupils in 8th or 9th grade prepare initiatives to be proposed. Then the debate on these initiatives takes place in Berne for two days. Pupils take on the role of national politicians debating in commission meetings and party meetings. The final debate is held in the Swiss parliament in the federal building.


Research Methods Course

Actively promoting excellence in research, the program places a strong emphasis on the research and methods skills of its participating members. In order to help them further develop these competences, specific methods courses such as social science statistics with R, data visualization, how to organize and document data and analysis as well as qualitative data collection, analysis and writing will be offered. A Complementary Methodological Training in the Social Sciences (PhD) is organized within the framework of the Graduate School of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The students are also encouraged to pursue additional methods training at the University of Zurich as well as in the framework of specific methods schools held elsewhere, for which dedicated financial assistance is available.



The participants can choose an elective from a wide range of options in the Graduate School PhF and beyond. The elective may be used to further expand their research skills or to investigate a topic of interest for their dissertation research.