Political Institutions


Course Objective

This course’s main objective is to make students understand the role of
institutions in shaping politics and policies.
After this course, students should be able to:
• Define and use the concept of political institutions and discuss it in
relation to the relevant literature.
• Describe (patterns in) the large variety of political institutions
across countries and other contexts.
• Explain and evaluate the way in which political institutions shape
political behaviour, interaction, and discourse.
• Explain how political institutions develop and change, why they often
remain unchanged, and how institutional change is possible.
• Explain the differences between various strands of
neo-institutionalist theory in political science.
• Apply various concepts and theories in the analysis of concrete cases
of politics and policy-making.
• Present their findings in writing and discuss them with other

Course Content

Did you know that about half of the world’s states have unicameral
parliaments? That besides the European Union, there is also an African
Union, as well as many other intergovernmental organizations? That there
are no less than 10 million NGO’s and that their total wealth equals the
world’s 5th GDP? You need not know all these facts to realize that
political institutions matter: formal institutions (legislatures,
federalism, budget rules) as well as informal institutions (norms,
conventions, usages of language or ‘discourse’) – they all play a very
important role in shaping our politics and policies. This course
primarily aims to provide you with an understanding of that role. You
will acquire a basic understanding of the meaning of political
institutions: what are they and why are they relevant? You will get to
know the political ‘landscape’: how do institutions vary across
different states and parts of the world? Attention will be paid to
processes of change and development of political institutions and to
'institutional design'. The course will have a theoretical angle, too:
you will study the dominant strands of neo-institutionalist theory in
contemporary political science and learn to critically analyze and
evaluate the working of institutions in concrete cases of politics and
policy-making. Once you have grasped ‘why institutions matter’, you will
forever look at politics and policy in a more profound way.

Teaching Methods

Lectures and seminars (active learning groups)

Method of Assessment

Written exam (50%), written assignment (50%), seminar assignments


• Textbook t.b.a.
• Selected online articles (provided via Canvas)

Target Audience

Second year PPE students

Additional Information

Please note that participation in the seminars is mandatory.

Custom Course Registration

There is a slightly different enrollment procedure for this module. The standard procedure of the Faculty of Humanities has students sign up for (i) the module, (ii) the form of tuition (lecture and/or preferred seminar group), and (iii) the exam. However, for this module the instructor will assign the students to the seminar groups. Therefore, students should sign up for (i) the module, (ii) lecture and (iii) the exam, but not for the seminar groups.

General Information

Course Code W_JSM_202
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 200
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator mr. A. Oleart
Examiner mr. A. Oleart
Teaching Staff mr. A. Oleart

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture, Seminar*

*You cannot select a group yourself for this teaching method, you will be placed in a group.

Target audiences

This course is also available as: