Student Pages
Undergraduate course

Democratic Transformations in Europe: Trends and Implications

  • ECTS credits10
  • Teaching semesterAutumn
  • Course codeSAMPOL223
  • Number of semesters1
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Resources

Main content

Teaching semester

Autumn, irregular

Objectives and Content

Democracies evolve. Their evolution is not only key to their survival; it is also a reflection of the changing environment in which they operate. SAMPOL223 contributes to the analysis and understanding of how democratic states have transformed over time by examining a number of challenges and opportunities that they face. With a focus on "Europe 31", understood as the EU28 plus Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland, the course brings together separate strands of literature which often remain disconnected in political science narratives. Looking at (1) citizen-state relations, (2) the restructuring of politics and institutions of the state, and (3) developments which reach "beyond and below" the state, SAMPOL223 interrogates a variety of issues ranging from the decline of parties or the re-emergence of nationalism as a political force, to liberal challenges to social democracy, terrorist threats, and climate change. The course combines these different dimensions into a comprehensive overview of the state of contemporary democracy, its challenges and opportunities, and its dynamic capacity to adapt. In other words, it deals with the perpetual threats to and transformations of democracy, and the state's ability to protect and strengthen its democratic attributes.

This course will be of key interest to students of Comparative Politics, European Politics, Democracy studies, and Public Policy/Public Administration.

Learning Outcomes

A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


  • Demonstrate knowledge of the main ways in which contemporary democracies have evolved this last half century in Europe
  • Show an understanding of 1) how citizen-state relations have changed over time and across countries, 2) how the politics and institutions of the states have transformed, 3) how transnational, subnational, and supranational developments impact the state.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with Dahl's work on democracy, ranging from his ideal-types of democratic systems (from "Madisonian" to "Populistic") to his "necessary conditions" to achieve a democratic process.
  • Display an understanding of simple quantitative data such as time-series cross-national trends (i.e. trends over time and across countries).


  • Have the capacity to reflect critically on observable trends/changes and relate them to the evolution of democracy in the broad European context.
  • Have the capacity to use a theoretical framework and to apply it to empirical data, and draw conclusions from the dialogue between theory and empirics.
  • Have the capacity to independently collect publicly available data, present it in a summary and analytical way, and interpret it in light of the knowledge accumulated throughout the course
  • Have the capacity to grasp and analyse simple quantitative data (i.e. descriptive trends)

General competence

  • Critical and independent thinking
  • A capacity to independently find sources of information and data so as to test existing arguments, theories, and expectations, or generate new ones.
  • A capacity to handle and present simple information and data in a coherent argument/narrative.
  • A capacity to combine theoretical knowledge and empirical knowledge
  • A capacity to digest and assimilate different types of information derived from both qualitative and quantitative research.

Required Previous Knowledge


Recommended Previous Knowledge

SAMPOL115, MET102 and SAMPOL110 / SAMPOL105, SAMPOL106 and SAMPOL107

Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap


Access to the Course

Open for all students at the University of Bergen.

Teaching and learning methods

Form: Lectures

Hours per veke: 2

Number of lectures: 14

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance


Forms of Assessment

Students have to deliver a maximum 4,000 words essay by the end of the semester. They have to work during the semester to identify a trend they are interested in, collect data on this trend for European countries over time, map out the trend either graphically or numerically, and interpret its implications for democracy using Dahl's framework. The graded output is thus a maximum 4,000-word essay with a deadline at the end of the semester.

Grading Scale

Grading A-F

Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester

Course Evaluation

All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.

Programme Committee

Department of Comparative Politics

Course Coordinator

Professor Michaƫl Tatham and Research Fellow Yvette Peters