• Offered by School of Politics and International Relations
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Research
  • Course subject Political Science
  • Areas of interest Policy Studies, Political Sciences, Politics
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

The main objective of this course is to understand, in both theory and practice, the central goals and challenges inherent within a federal system of government. Within federal configurations, power and resources can simultaneously shift downwards (towards local government) and upwards towards the centre. Why would the centre concede power to subnational units or vice versa? In this course, we will explore the logic of power-sharing and the motives (causes) that drive it from two different theoretical perspectives that are grounded in experience: rational choice (American) and historical institutionalism (European). In the final stages of the course we will begin to look at the impact (consequences) of federalism on democracy and democratic representation, economic stability, and redistribution. We will examine both the normative theories of federalism and how it is applied in practice to countries such as Australia, Canada, and the US, and in emerging federations such as Brazil and Argentina.

Learning Outcomes

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

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
1. Identify the concepts that influence the dynamics of federalism;
2. Understand the sources of these concepts and their historical development;
3. Use these concepts in order to critically research, analyse, and evaluate major issues in federalism; and
4. Develop skills for research, argument, and analysis in order to to effectively communicate their own perspectives on key concepts and issues in federalism.

Indicative Assessment

Class Participation (10%) (LO: 1, 4)
Seminar leadership (present readings and facilitate discussions) (10%) (LO:1, 4)
Two Response Papers (2000 words each; 15% each) (LO: 2, 3, 4)
Research Paper (5000 words; 50%) (LO: 1, 2, 3, 4)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


 130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures, and 12 hours of tutorials; and,
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Preliminary Reading

Bednar, Jenna. (2009). The Robust Federation: Principles of Design. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
Galligan, Brian. (1995). A Federal Republic: Australia’s Constitutional System of Federalism. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
Skogstad, Cameron, Papillion, and Banting, eds. (2013). The Global Promise of Federalism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2021 $4110
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $5880
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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