Core Subject: Institutions, Policy Processes and Law in the European Union

Course content

The first core course of the European Politics track 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. 

Throughout 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 normative aspects of policy-making with invited high-level participants involved in the making of European policy.


Core subject in the core subject track in European Politics. Only accessible to students who are admitted to European Politics. 


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semester only, as the course is not offered in the spring


Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment exam due to coincident exam periods.

Learning outcome


Students will learn 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
  • Know and characterise different EU policy fields and specific legislation within them



Students will train the following skills:

  • The ability to apply theoretical perspectives on the EU to understand decision-making in different European policy areas
  • The ability to relate developments in the European Union to theoretical perspectives and institutional, political and legal features of the Union
  • The ability to evaluate decision-making in the EU in positive and normative terms



Students will foster the following competences:

  • Critical analysis of decision-making in different European policy areas
  • Collaboration and knowledge transfer to address a specific case of EU legislation, its genesis and implications 
  • Independent reflection on institutional, political and legal features of the EU that empower or disempower actors

The teaching style distinguishes itself from a traditional graduate seminar by involving a central element of interactive learning and by being case based. The seminar crucially depends on active participation of students. After the first foundational weeks, each week of the course discusses policy-making in a policy area in more detail. The typical lecture format will be divided into two sections: The first half of the session will be organized by the lecturer, in which the general features of policy-making in the policy field are presented and discussed. Thereafter, the second half is set aside to illustrate decision-making with a specific policy case. This session is student-led and examines decision-making in practice. The task of the student teams is to provide a sophisticated, theoretically informed view about the central features and dynamics in the case. Team presentations take about 20-25 minutes and will be followed by discussion with the whole class, organized and steered by the presenters. 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 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 case (Which actors are involved? Which types of procedures are used?)
• The main developments regarding the case and an explanation for these developments
• Additional relevant questions

Revised 3 May 2022

The seminar will be based on a number of different readings and the following textbook:

  • Wallace, Helen, Pollack, Mark A., Roederer-Rynning, C and Young, Alasdair R. (2020). Policy making in the European Union (8th edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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 analysing the cases including these useful sources:

Type of assessment
Written examination
Type of assessment details
Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semesters only, as the course is not offered in the spring.

Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment exam due to coincident exam periods.

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
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • English
  • 56


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinators
  • Wiebke Marie Junk   (11-81736f6c756f38747f78754a73707d38757f386e75)
  • Silje Synnøve Lyder Hermansen   (15-81777a78733c7673807b6f7c81737c4e7774813c79833c7279)
Saved on the 28-04-2023

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