STV9430A – Political leadership and democratic innovations in local governments

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course is also available as a 3 ECTS credits course.

Democratic innovation is high on the agenda in many Western liberal democracies. We see a mushrooming of initiatives aiming to stimulate policy innovation by rethinking the institutional set-up for representative democracy. This trend is particularly manifest at the level of local government. Many of the current institutional innovations aim to create closer dialogue between politicians and citizens. One of the key drivers behind this development appears to be that Western governments increasingly see citizen involvement as a precondition for solving many of today’s complex policy problems. Moreover, we are witnessing a change in political culture. Today’s citizens are anti-authoritarian, critical and competent, demanding more influence than the ballot box gives them.

As a part of the democratic innovations, elected representatives may have to take on a role as political leaders who exercise leadership in closer interaction with citizens and stakeholders. In the process of institutionalizing new initiatives for citizen inclusion in local government decision making, traditional institutions of representative democracy need to link to arenas where citizens and politicians can engage with each other. This need for linking representative and participatory democracy raises several, both normative and empirical, questions. Democratic innovation at the level of local government and beyond will have consequences for elected representatives, citizens and the way that democratic functions are performed. Discussing these consequences is at the core of this Ph.D. course.

Course leaders

Jan Erling Klausen, associate professor in Political Science/Local Government Studies, University of Oslo, Norway.

Asbjørn Røiseland, professor in Political Science, Nord University, Norway.

Signy Irene Vabo, professor in Political Science/Local Government Studies, University of Oslo, Norway.

Other lecturers

Sarah Ayres, reader in Public Policy and Governance, University of Bristol, UK.

Paul 't Hart, professor of Public Administration, Utrecht University School of Governance & Netherlands School of Public Administration, the Netherlands

Daniel Kübler, professor in Political Science and co-director of the Centre for Democracy Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Eva Sørensen, professor in Political Science, Roskilde University, Denmark.

Jacob Torfing, professor in Political Science, Roskilde University, Denmark.

Angelika Vetter, professor in Political Science, University of Stuttgart, Germany

Learning outcome

  • Obtain a nuanced understanding of local political leadership and democratic innovations, both empirically and theoretically;
  • Be well acquainted with the major theoretical and empirical approaches to studying local political leadership and citizen participation;
  • Engage in critical discussions, become acquainted with the work of others, and build networks within their chosen field of Research.


The course is open to PhD students in political science, public administration and related disciplines with research interests in this area.

Course capacity: 18 students 

Syllabus: Approx. 1000 pages

There is no participation fee. Lunches and (two) dinners are provided. The cost of travel and accommodation, if needed, must be covered by the participants.

PhD candidates at the Department of Political Science and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Oslo: apply for the course in Studentweb from 15 March 2019

Other PhD candidates: Application form (application is closed)

All candidates accepted for admission will be registered as guest students at the University of Oslo.

Application deadline: 15 June 2019

Applicants will be notified about the outcome of their application as quickly as possible after the application deadline.


The course combines lectures and presentations in a workshop format. Each participant must prepare to present their own paper and provide comments for other participants’ papers during the course. Active participation and preparation by all participants is essential.

Mandatory attendance at the workshop 80%.

Please note that all obligatory activities and submission of papers should be passed in the same semester.

Obligatory activities: 

  • Read recommended literature (see syllabus) and papers ahead of the workshop session 
  • hand in a drafted course paper (3000- 4000 words), present own and comment on someone else’s paper
  • actively participate in the course activities,

The drafted course paper should be submitted before the course (see deadline below) and presented during the course. The course paper should emphasize theoretical and/or methodological issues, analyzing a topic that is consistent with the course’s purpose and based on (parts of) the literature listed in the syllabus. 

Deadline for submission of drafted course paper before the course: 23 September 2019.


Submit full course paper (4000 – 6000 words). The course paper should emphasize theoretical and/or methodological issues, analyzing a topic that is consistent with the course's purpose and based on (parts of) the literature listed in the syllabus.

Deadline for full course paper submission: 2 December 2019

Feedback on evaluation of full course papers: 31 December 2019

Transcript can be attained through Studentweb at the University of Oslo website. Students who complete the course are awarded 10 ECTS credits. Students from other institutions are recommended to contact their PhD Coordinator in order to incorporate the course as part of their educational plan prior to their participation. 

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2019

Teaching language