• Offered by School of Politics and International Relations
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Political Science
  • Areas of interest Development Studies, Policy Studies, Political Sciences, Political Economy, Latin American Studies
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Tracy Fenwick
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2015
    See Future Offerings

The main objective of this course is to understand, in both, theory and practice, the main goals and challenges inherent within a federal system of government. In 1964, William Riker stated in the preface to his seminal work that federalism emanates from one source, but exists across many diverse institutional and cultural settings.

In this course, we will begin to unpack that statement in order to understand, first, where federalism originates and what it was intended to achieve, second, why federal ‘models’ of government across diverse institutional and cultural settings exhibit such variation, and third, what are the ‘general’ and ‘local’ dilemmas of federalism and how does multi-level governance attempt to solve them?

How does federalism and multi-level governance affect policymaking and policy outcomes, democracy and democratic representation, economic stability, and ethnic/territorial conflict? Examples for this course will be drawn from both the developed and developing world.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon Successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand what federalism is, where it originated,and what it was (theoretically) intended to achieve.
  2. Distinguish between federalism and multi-level governance and discuss whether authoritative action on public matters should no longer be the domain of one government
  3. Categorise whether a given country and society is federal or federation-like, and attempt to theorise whether or not it matters?
  4. Compare two or more nations and determine how they are different.
  5. Critically assess the value and importance of alternate arguments
  6. Communicate their understanding of comparative Federalism through written analysis and/or verbal presentation.

Indicative Assessment

  • Comparative Research Paper 50% of the total grade (3,000 words), (Learning Outcomes 3, 4)
  • Oral Presentation-10 mins, 10% (Learning Outcome 5, 6).
  • Final Exam 2 hours (Formal Exam Period), 40% (Learning Outcomes 1 and 2).

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One 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial per week for 13 weeks. Students are expected to undertake a further 7 hours of independent study each week during the semester (total workload 130 hours).

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed POLS1002

Prescribed Texts

Ordeshook, Peter, Filippov, Michael and Olga Shetsova. 2004. Designing Federalism: A Theory of Self-Sustainable Federal Institutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Watts, Ronald L. 2008. Comparing Federal Systems. (3rd Edition), Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.

Preliminary Reading

Gibson, E. L. 2004. Federalism and Democracy in Latin America, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Gagnon, Alain and James Tully (eds) 2001. Multinational Democracies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Assumed Knowledge





Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $2604
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $3576
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3177 16 Feb 2015 06 Mar 2015 31 Mar 2015 29 May 2015 In Person N/A

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