STV4313 – The Welfare State: Politics, Policies, and Feedback

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Course content

The welfare state was a European invention that took shape gradually during the twentieth century. It consists of several policy domains, for example social insurances/cash benefits such as pensions, unemployment benefits, sickpay, parental leave, and social assistance. It also consists of public services like health care, elder care, child care, and so on. It is no exaggeration to say that the welfare state fundamentally restructured Western societies. Roughly half of state expenditures, and up to around a third of GDP, in advanced industrial democracies now concern the welfare state. This makes it a crucial subject matter for social science in general and political science in particular.

This course asks three groups of questions.

  • One has to do with the politics of the welfare state. What were the political-historical origins of the welfare state? How do voters, parties, and governments relate to various policy areas today? Are patterns of conflict and levels of support changing?
  • A second group of questions zooms in on policies themselves. What are the main policy dimensions and how do these vary across countries? Is there still a “Nordic model”? And how do welfare states now respond in the face of current challenges, such as population ageing, economic globalization, European integration, and immigration?
  • The third set of questions has to do with policy feedback. Can welfare state policies, once established, affect the “input side” of democratic politics? For example, do such policies somehow reshape citizens’ participation patterns, policy attitudes, or trust in democratic institutions?

The course should be of general interest to political science students and similar, for example to those with a specialization in comparative politics or in public policy.

Learning outcome


At the end of the course you are expected to be able to explain:

  • how “the welfare state” can be defined and what the key policy areas and dimensions are.
  • the political-historical origins of the welfare state.
  • how and why welfare state policies vary across countries today and how they are changing
  • how key democratic actors and groups agree and disagree over welfare state policies.
  • how already existing welfare state polices affect democratic politics.
  • current “real-world” public debates concerning the functioning and future of the welfare state.


At the end of the course you are expected to be able to:

  • analyze current real-world political debates and policy processes using research about welfare state politics.
  • simultaneously analyze and connect  different “phases” of the political process that are often kept separate in political science, i.e. simultaneously analyzing citizens, parties/organizations, and public policy.


You will be able to:

  • critically evaluate cutting-edge research using both quantitative and qualitative approaches.
  • synthesize, evaluate, and apply vast swathes of information.
  • engage in academic dialogue and mutual feedback


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Apply for guest student status if you are admitted to another Master's programme (deadline 1 August / 5 January).

For incoming students

All Master's courses in Political Science must be registered manually by the Department, they will not appear in Studentweb. Contact your international coordinator at UiO.


Recommended previous knowledge

Bachelor's degree in Political Science or similar.


Lectures and seminars.

The course runs for five weeks with two or more meetings held each week. The exam is held in the sixth week.

Compulsory activities:

Participation in 2 out of 3 seminars. Participating in a seminar involves being present during the meeting as well as performing a writing/commenting task in Canvas (500-600 words; pass/fail).


4-hour written examination

You must have passed the compulsory activities in order to sit for the exam.

Previous exams

Written examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read more about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

Students may use dictionaries at this exam. Dictionaries must be handed in before the examination. Please read regulations for dictionaries permitted at the examination.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Spring 2022

This course is not given on a regular basis


Spring 2022

This course is not given on a regular basis

Teaching language