Insegnamento a.a. 2019-2020


Department of Law

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 23
BIG (6 credits - I sem. - OB  |  IUS/21)
Course Director:

Classes: 23 (I sem.)

Mission & Content Summary


Employing both the diachronic and synchronic methods of analysis typical of comparative constitutional law, this course addresses topics such as constitutional development and democratisation, constitution-making and constitutional amendment; forms of state and forms of government, federalism, regionalism and devolution, electoral systems and electoral management bodies, the role and functions of constitutional and supreme courts and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.



  • What are the obstacles to be overcome when studying the legal system of one country in the language of another? 
  • What are the methods of classification used in comparative constitutional law?
  • What are the constitutive elements of the State? How can we classify constitutions?
  • What are constitutional statutes, ordinary statutes, law decrees, legislative decrees and delegated legislation?

Constitutional Amendment Processes:

  • Should a constitution be easy or hard to amend?
  • Are frequent amendments to a constitution a sign of strength or weakness in terms of constitutional development? Can constitutional amendments be ... unconstitutional?

Constitutional Development and Democratisation:

  • What do we mean by ‘democratic transition and consolidation’ from a legal and political standpoint? What is the difference between a ‘formal’ and ‘substantive’ transition?
  • What do the experiences across the globe tell us about how to draft and frame a constitution?
  • What are the differences from a constitutional standpoint between democratic transitions today and those of Germany, Italy and Japan after WWII and Greece, Portugal and Spain in the 1970s?

Forms of State and Forms of Government:

  • What do we mean in the context of comparative constitutional law with the expressions ‘form of state’ and ‘form of government’? Is there a preferred model of government and what are the advantages and drawbacks of ‘institutional transplanting’?
  • What is preferable: a parliamentary, presidential or semi-presidential executive?

Electoral systems and Electoral Management Bodies:

  • Should we give more emphasis to stability or to representation?
  • What is preferable: First-Past-The-Post (FPTP), Two-Round Voting Systems (TRV), the Alternative Vote (AV) or systems of Proportional Representation (PR)?
  • Who controls elections?

Federalism, Regionalism and Devolution:

  • What are the distinguishing features between federalism, regionalism and devolution?
  • After Brexit what is the future of the United Kingdom?

Constitutional and Supreme Courts: composition, role and functions:

  • Who should be the guardian of the Constitution?
  • Is it preferable to adopt a centralised or decentralised system of constitutional review? What role do constitutional courts play in transitions to democracy?
  • Should constitutional courts be allowed to declare political parties unconstitutional?

Political, Economic and Civil Rights:

  • Should rights and freedoms be enumerated?
  • How does one balance different rights and freedoms? What do we mean by multi-level protection of rights.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Know the structures of government also in a comparative perspective, Identify the main elements characterizing constitutional assets throughout Europe and North America.
  • Explain the approach of different legal systems to individual rights and constitutional justice.
  • Discuss the impact of major historical and philosophical events, such as the French Revolution, on the development of the constitutional structure of States.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Provide advice and suggestions on essential elements of constitutional and political reform.
  • Explain the aims of combining a diachronic and synchronic approach to legal knowledge.
  • Apply basic comparative methods to their understanding of public law.
  • Develop skills in legal reasoning.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Individual assignments
  • Group assignments


  • We often have distinguished public law scholars hosed at Bocconi and therefore we take this opportunity for them to give talks to our class on specific topics.
  • Students are required to orally present a case study (as part of a team) and furthermore, students have the option of writing a short take-home paper which must be handed in by the end of the semester break (length of up to 1500 words). 
  • All classes are a combination of lectures and discussion.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  x x
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Peer evaluation


  1. In-class participation including a group presentation. Attending Students are expected to ensure regular class attendance and to actively participate in class discussions and teamwork. This assesment method is aimed to test the students’ ability to interact in a constructive way and to think critically about the content of the course (20% of the final grade).
  2. Partial take home exam consisting of one short essay (1500 words +/-10 %). Students answer one from a choice of three questions provided by the instructors. The precise deadline to hand in the papers are communicated during the first week of the course. This assesment will test the students ability to think critically about the course content. It requires students to take a stance on one key issue discussed in class and to defend their opinions by adressing arguments and counter-arguments (30% of the final grade).
  3. Final written exam consisting of a mix of multiple choice, short definitional questions, and one essay question. This assessment method is aimed to test the students’ substantive knowledge of the course content and their ability to describe it, summarize it, and contextualize it also by establishing connections between the various macro-themes dealt with (50% of the grade).

The final mark is determined as a sum of class participation and group presentation (20%), the mid-term take home exam (30%), the final in-class exam (50%).


For non attending students, 100% of the grade will be determined by an in class exam consisting of a mix of multiple choice, short definitional questions, and one essay question. The exam is based only on the textbook M. TUSHNET, Advanced Introduction to Comparative Constitutional Law, 2018, 2nd ed.

Teaching materials


  • Selected Chapters of M. TUSHNET, Advanced Introduction to Comparative Constitutional Law, 2018, 2nd ed.
  • Additional articles as indicated in the syllabus, made available through Bboard by the instructors.
  • Readings, cases and materials provided during the course of the semester, made available through blackboard or distributed in class.
  • Slides and Class Notes.


M. TUSHNET, Advanced Introduction to Comparative Constitutional Law, 2018, 2nd ed.

Last change 29/10/2019 12:38