ASTK18025U Core Subject: Important Challenges in European Governance

Volume 2024/2025

Core subject in the core subject track in European Politics. Only accessible to students who are admitted to European Politics.

Not accessible to students who have passed exam in the elective: "Political Advocacy, Lobbying and the Influence Production Process" (ASTK18437U)


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semesters only, as the course is not offered in the spring


Many European governments dedicate more than fifty per cent of total public expenditure on ‘social spending’ – what we usually refer to as the welfare state. While social policy remains a predominantly national competency, the EU in many ways directly or indirectly shapes national policy in this area. This course introduces students to the national and supranational politics and policies that govern welfare in EU member states. Students will become acquainted with the basics of comparative social policy research and key social and political challenges facing European welfare states.


The first weeks cover key theories and concepts in comparative social policy, including the origins, subsequent developments, and different types of welfare states in EU countries. In connect to this, we scrutinise the values and aims of social policy, the socioeconomic outcomes associated with social policy, and the methodological challenges associated with studying welfare state change. The subsequent weeks are devoted to the impact of EU integration on national social policy, and the origins, development and content of EU level social policy. In the final weeks we look at 21st century challenges to European welfare states – including demographic change, changing employment patterns, and climate change –, and national and EU level responses to them.

Learning Outcome


Upon completing the course will have acquired knowledge of:

  • key theories of the welfare state, welfare state development, welfare state change, and welfare typologies
  • key topics in contemporary welfare state and EU integration research
  • contemporary real world political and policy issues relating to the welfare state and EU integration



  • critically engage with concepts, theories and real-world political developments relating to the welfare state and EU social and economic policy
  • apply theories discussed in the course to real-world examples
  • make consistent and independent arguments orally and in writing
  • discuss and analyse concrete policy problems relating to national and EU social policy and welfare



  • understand and discuss academic literature
  • analytical skills
  • independent and collaborative work
  • oral and written communication

Baldwin, P (1990) The Politics of Social Solidarity: Class Bases of the European Welfare State, 1875-1975. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Béland, D. and M. Powell (2016) ‘Continuity and Change in Social Policy’, Social Policy and Administration, 50(2), pp. 129-147

Castles et al (eds) (2010) The Oxford Handbook of The Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Coman, R., Crespy, A. and Schmidt, V. A. (Eds.), Governance and politics in the post-crisis European Union. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Esping-Andersen, G. (1990) The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Cambridge: Polity Press

Emmenegger, P., Hausermann, S., Palier, B., and Seeleib-Kaiser, M. (2012) The age of dualization: the changing face of inequality in deindustrialising societies. Oxford University Press

Garland, D. (2016) The Welfare State: A Very Short Introduction.

Hay, C. and Wincott, D. (2012) The Political Economy of European Welfare Capitalism. Palgrave.

Kennett, P. and Lendvai-Bainton (2017) Handbook of European Social Policy. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Lewis, J. (1992) ‘Gender and the Development of Welfare Regimes’, Journal of European Social Policy, 2(3), pp. 159-173.

Morel, N., Palier, B. and Palme, J. (eds.) (2011) Towards a Social Investment State? Bristol: Policy Press

Sainsbury D. (2012), Welfare states and immigrant rights: The politics of inclusion and exclusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Scharpf, F. (2010) ‘The asymmetry of European integration, or why the EU cannot be a ‘social market economy’, Socio-Economic Review, 8(2), pp. 211–250.

van Kersbergen, K. and Vis, B. (2014) Comparative Welfare State Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vanhercke, B., Ghailani, D., Spasova, S. and Pochet, P. (2020). Social policy in the European Union 1999-2019: the long and winding road. Brussels, ETUI.

Classes will be very much interactive and will involve lecture-style elements, discussions in smaller and larger groups, group exercises, and lecture-style elements. Each week, we will together critically dissect theories and concepts and apply them to concrete examples
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral exam on basis of previous submission
Type of assessment details
Oral exam with synopsis
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Synopsis oral exam

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semesters only, as the course is not offered in the spring

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