ASTK15418U COURSE: Ministerial careers

Volume 2017/2018

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


Whether they are motivated by the desire to influence policy or by other reasons, holding ministerial office is a central ambition of many politicians. This course focuses on competition to attain and retain ministerial office and ministers’ efforts to influence policy while in office in parliamentary and semi-presidential democracies. Who gets into government and who is excluded? Under what conditions do incumbents influence policy? What kinds ministers are more (and less) durable in government and under what conditions? What happens to these individuals after a spell in government? The course provides students with an appreciation of a set of key actors in democratic systems and the challenges and opportunities they encounter. It is centred on regular reading and participation in class and it places a strong emphasis on recent research literature. It includes workshop-style sessions that provide students with opportunities to develop their knowledge of the sources of data and case-study information available to them, to apply their substantive and methodological knowledge to the topics covered, and to develop a basis for their term paper.


This course may be useful for students who aim to work in government at any level, with politicians or political parties, or in sectors that require a good knowledge of government or a capacity analyse domestic politics in parliamentary democracies (e.g., journalism, law, public affairs).


Learning Outcome

By the end of the term, students should be able to:

  1. understand some important similarities and differences among ministerial careers and the political systems in which they take place;
  2. source information and data on key aspects of ministerial careers;
  3. compare aspects of ministerial careers and the factors that influence them;
  4. identify current research puzzles and unresolved problems in the literature;
  5. develop solutions to these puzzles and problems.


Session1. Introduction. Ministers, political careers and democracy. No required readings.


Session2. Principal-agent relationships, institutions and ministers. Readings: (Strøm 2000, Dowding and Dumont 2009b, 2015b)


Sessions3. Who gets in? (Emphasis on institutional factors). The role of party, parliament, and regional government membership (Kaiser and Fischer 2009). When are non-partisan ministers appointed?(Schleiter and Morgan-Jones 2009). Proximity to the principal (Bäck et al. 2016).


Session4. Who gets in? (Emphasis on individual-level factors). Proximity to party preferences and selection (Kam et al. 2010); personal votes and selection (Klein and Umit 2016); membership of a dynasty (Smith and Martin 2016).


Session5. Workshop session.

  1. An introduction to sources of data on ministers.

  2. Peer-review of ideas for a term paper.


    Session6. Who gets in? Gender and ministerial selection. Readings: (Krook and O’Brien 2012, Annesley 2015, O’Brien et al. 2015, Allen 2016).


    Session7. Inter-party relations and junior ministerial appointments. Readings: (Thies 2001, Lipsmeyer and Pierce 2011, Falcó-Gimeno 2014)



    Session8. Ministers in the policy process. Readings: (Adolph and Adolph 2013, p. tbc, Alexiadou 2015, Atchison 2015).


    Session9. Ministers and pork-barrel politics. Readings:  (Denemark 2000, Dahlberg and Johansson 2002, John et al. 2004, Suiter and O’Malley 2013)


    Session10. The survival of ministers in office. Readings: (Fischer et al. 2012, Huber and Martinez-Gallardo 2008, Berlinski et al. 2012, pp. 117–149, Bright et al. 2015). Tip: start with Fischer et al. 2012.


    Session11. Workshop session. Research designs, data and cases.

  3. Qualitative research on survival in government and exit from government (Bennister and Heppell 2014, Brändström 2015).

  4. Case selection strategies: (Seawright and Gerring 2008).


    Session12. What happens next? Readings: Parties, ministers and post-incumbency elections (Martin 2016). Post-ministerial careers (Theakston 2012, Stolz and Fischer 2014, Claveria and Verge 2015).


    Session13. Final workshop session. Part of the work in this session will be based on your reading of one of the interviews with UK ministers available in the Ministers Reflect project: http:/​/​​ministers-reflect/​ 


    Session14. Review and discussion.




  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • 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