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Comparative Public Administration


Villeneuve J. P.

Course director

Weissmüller K.

Course director


This course addresses the structure, dynamics and ultimately impacts of five institutional frameworks on public communication. This is done from an international comparative approach using the Swiss political and administrative system as a base reference. The countries to be discussed have been selected due to their representativeness as well as their overall role as partners of Swiss administrative and political institutions (Canada, China, Germany, India, and Brazil).

The importance of understanding these models rests on the impact that their construct has on the way in which they envisage the public sector, its actions and its communication. As the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, explained: “Les Allemands ne sont pas des Français qui parlent allemand…”[1](Germans are not Frenchmen that happen to speak a different language, namely German). Indeed, the difference is more fundamental than that! The set-up of public administrations impacts on operating in and operating with people and organisations evolving in a specific politico-administrative system. This class will be devoted to exploring these specificities. 

The format of this course has two specific elements: the presence of external speakers, and the active use of audio-visual material. This course will predominantly feature external speakers. For each of the systems analysed a new speaker will be present (either in person when possible, if not via video-conferencing). It is felt that this is the best way not only to study a particular system, but also to give the opportunity to interact directly with scholars and professionals with specific experience with a respective system. It allows students to see the impact of these various national traditions on their respective pedagogical approaches. Do note that all the speakers have a specific and extensive knowledge of the Swiss system.

The second specificity of this class is the use of audio-visual material as a way of deepening the analysis and understanding of the various administrative and political systems. While almost every politico-administrative system have been used and portrayed on countless occasions either in cinema television or theatre, the number of such productions, their quality and availability in a language understandable by participants of this class are few. For this reasons, we shall limit ourselves to documents presenting the Swiss and American systems. 

[1] Le Monde, 15 novembre 2013


Be able to identify the salient characteristics of the Swiss Politico-Administrative System.

Be able to identify the salient characteristics of the main political systems.

Understand the various analytical tools used to compare and contrast the historical roots and currents trends of politico-administrative systems around the world.

Teaching mode

In presence

Learning methods

Traditional lectures and multimedia exercices

Examination information

Participation: 10%

TV Series Exercice: 30%

Final Paper: 60%