COURSE: Institutions, Policy Processes and Policies of the EU

Course content

The first core course of the specialization in European Union Studies is an advanced graduate seminar on EU policy-making and the constitutional design of the EU as well as the substantial contents of key EU policy areas. The course is divided into two sections.

                             The first section provides students with the essential analytical frameworks necessary for understanding the Union. We will discuss the EU as a multi-level political system and the ”nature of the beast”, the EU’s constitutional framework and the central principles of EU law, including its relationship to national law, and theories of European integration. 

                             During the second section of the course the students will apply these theoretical frameworks to understand a broad range of important policy areas such as single market policies, social policies and employment, agriculture, environmental policy and justice and home affairs. In each policy area, we consider the role of all the different relevant political, administrative and non-state actors engaged in multilevel decision-making both at the national and EU level. Ultimately, the goal of the different sessions is to conduct a theoretically informed analysis of why specific policies develop the way they do and to understand what is really going on in EU-decision-making in Brussels and at the national level.

                             The course ends with a half-day conference in which students will discuss policy-making with invited high-level participants involved in the making of European policy and assess how well the theoretical frameworks we have applied during the course correspond with the experiences of practitioners.


Core course in the "Specialization in European Union Studies"

The Course is open to all students at the department

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS

Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


Learning outcome

For students to be able to:

  • Describe the central institutions  of the EU
  • Give an account of the main  modes of decision-making in the EU
  • Understand the main perspectives on the EU as  a political system, a legal system, a multilevel system and  a form of regional integration.
  • Apply theoretical perspectives on the EU to understand decision-making in different European policy areas
  • Critically analyze decision-making in different European policy areas
  • Reflect on institutional, political and legal features of the EU that empower or dis-empower actors
  • Evaluate decision-making in the EU in positive and normative terms
  • Relate developments in the European Union to theoretical perspectives and institutional, political and legal features of the Union

The teaching style distinguishes itself from a traditional graduate seminar by involving a high element of interactive learning and by being case based. The seminar crucially depends on the active participation of students. After the first weeks, each week of the course discusses policy-making in a policy area in more detail illustrated by a specific policy case where students examine decision-making. The task of the teams is to provide a sophisticated, theoretically informed view about the central features and dynamics in the policy field and the case.
Team presentations take about 45 minutes and will be followed by discussion with the whole group. These presentations have to be prepared very thoroughly and should be the result of real teamwork (rather than just splitting up the work among team members). The teams have to provide information about:
• The history of the policy field (very brief)
• The central issues (controversial items)
• The preferences of different actors with regard to these issues: EU Commission European Parliament, (coalitions) of member states, interests groups, additional actors
• The sources of these preferences (domestic traditions, economic structure, interest group pressure, party ideology…)
• The way decisions are taken in the policy field (Which actors are involved? Which types of procedures are used?)
• The main developments in the policy field and an explanation for these developments
• Additional relevant questions

The seminar will be based largely on the following books:

  • Helen Wallace, Mark A. Pollack and Alasdair R. Young. 2015. Policy making in the European Union (7th edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hix, Simon and Bjorn Hoyland (2011). The Political System of the European Union. Houndsmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (3rd edition).


Additional required literature is either electronically available (Library) or will be made available on Absalon. In addition, the students will independently find the material needed for analyzing the cases including these useful sources:

Basic knowledge about the institutions and the policy making process in the EU is required. Students that have not attended an introduction to the EU are advised to consult the most recent edition of an introductory text book as background reading, for instance:
• Herman Lelieveldt and Sebastian Princen (2011) The Politics of the European Union, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Nugent, N. (2010), Government and Politics of the European Union, Palgrave: Palgrave University Press

It is recommended that you follow the course "Approaches to International Conflicts: International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies"

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
24-hours exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28