• Class Number 2980
  • Term Code 3430
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • AsPr Tracy Fenwick
    • AsPr Tracy Fenwick
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 19/02/2024
  • Class End Date 24/05/2024
  • Census Date 05/04/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2024
SELT Survey Results

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 center. Why would the center 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. By doing so, we will be examining one of the most dynamic research areas at the intersection of political science and economics. 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. Australian federalism will be a focus of this course, and will provide students with a unique opportunity to design (reform) the Australian Federation.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. define and explain the concept of federalism, where it originated, and what it was intended to achieve;
  2. assess whether a given country and society is federal or federation-like, and attempt to theorise whether or not it matters within its context;
  3. analyse different schools/methods used to investigate federalism and be able to critically asses their value and importance;
  4. demonstrate an understanding of why federalism matters for public policy outcomes in Australia and beyond; and
  5. communicate understanding of comparative Federalism through written analysis and/or verbal presentation.

Required Resources

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

Online ANU Access: http://site.ebrary.com/lib/anuau/docDetail.action?docID=10124737

Various. 2012. “The Future of Australian Federalism: Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives: Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. [Available online via ANU library]

Fenwick, Tracy Beck. 2016. Avoiding Governors: Federalism, Democracy, and Poverty Alleviation in Brazil and Argentina. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.[Reserves]

Hueglin, Thomas and Alan Fenna. 2010. Comparative Federalism: A Systematic Inquiry [RESERVES]


Watts, Ronald. Comparing Federal Systems. McGill Queens University Press [RESERVES]

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. The Global Promise of Federalism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

The information provided is a preliminary Class Outline. A finalised version will be available on Wattle and will be accessible after enrolling in this course. All updates, changes and further information will be uploaded on the course Wattle site and will not be updated on Programs and Courses throughout the semester. Any questions or concerns should be directed to the Course Convenor.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introduction: What is Federalism and Why Study it?
2 Where does it come from and why come together?
3 Federalism and Democracy: Representation and Accountability.
4 Intergovernmental Relations and the Distribution of Power
5 Federalism and the Welfare State
6 Political Parties in Federal Systems
7 Fiscal Federalism: Does federalism promote economic growth?
8 Part II: Doing Comparative Federalism (Some Methods)
9 Australia and Canada
10 Latin America Federations in Comparative Perspective
11 Multinational Federations in Comparative Perspective
12 Course Conclusions Final Essay or Policy Memo Due

Tutorial Registration

You must sign up to present a reading in the seminar via Wattle at the beginning of the term. Only a predetermined amount of students can choose a single reading (TBD) per workshop is allowed.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
Comparative Research Essay or Policy Memo (3,000 words)- due week 12 40 % 1,2,3,4,5
Workshop Critical Reviews (20%) 20 % 1,4,5
3 x 10 % Quizzes = 30% 30 % 3,4,5
10 % 1,2,3,4,5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


10% workshop participation marks will be based on sharing and debating texts in the live workshops

Assessment Task 1

Value: 40 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Comparative Research Essay or Policy Memo (3,000 words)- due week 12

Comparative Research Essay (Compare one of the major themes of the course in at least two federal countries: design, representation/accountability, economic growth, nationalism/conflict/succession, the welfare state/social expenditure. At least one paragraph must be included to justify your choice of cases to compare [or] Write a policy memo/reform proposal.

For memo, Federalism was a reoccurring theme during the 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia and will be a priority area on the agenda for the upcoming 2020 COAG meetings. Since COVID, federalism has undergone a massive reinvigoration in Australia. By drawing on previous natural disasters from Australian and other Federal Countries, what recommendations would you make to the Australian Government in term of how to manage the bushfires or the pandemic better? Remember, initially Prime Minister Morrison declared both the fires and the border closures/restrictions a “state responsibility” (Several guides will be given to help you with the format). Alternatively, you may choose to write a policy memo on subnational policy innovations in Australia such as the ACT’s move to legalize cannabis possession and its impact on Australia’s Drug Policies, or another policy topic of your choice. Remember to choose a specific audience to address in writing your memo--i.e. Scott Morrison, the ACT Government, COAG, etc....

There are lots of guides on how to write a policy memo---here is one https://shorensteincenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Christopher-Stones-Memo-on-Memo-Writing.pdf

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,4,5

Workshop Critical Reviews (20%)

For each week's workshops, we will critically discuss the week's readings. Each one of you throughout the term will be responsible for selecting one text and writing a 750 word critical review of the text. You need to sign up for your reading so we have all the weeks covered. 10% workshop participation marks will be based on sharing and debating texts in the live workshops. For the critical review you need to identify the *structure, methodology, reasons/evidence of the text and then provide a short written analysis about the text identifying the *conclusions and the logic of the article (including identifying alternative perspectives).

Assessment Task 3

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 3,4,5

3 x 10 % Quizzes = 30%

Online quizzes will be available to complete on the Friday of week 4, 8, 10. Quizzes will cover lecture content and required readings.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

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.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
AsPr Tracy Fenwick

Research Interests

Federalism and the Politics of Redistribution; Social Policy and the Welfare State

AsPr Tracy Fenwick

By Appointment
By Appointment
AsPr Tracy Fenwick

Research Interests

AsPr Tracy Fenwick

By Appointment
By Appointment

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