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Democracy, citizens & new forms of civic engagement

Examine the historical transformations of representative politics from the viewpoint of citizen participation and provide you with the analytical tools to identify the new forms of civic engagement at both institutional and extra-institutional domains.

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
Field of studies
  • Law
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Environmental sciences, Urbanism, Geography
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
1 October - 13 December 2024

From the last decades, citizens increasingly disengage from traditional party politics and voting as a way to express political views, values and beliefs. Recent years have seen diverse forms of political protest, social and artistic activism movements, flourish both offline and online, targeting the various territorial level of democratic politics: EU, national, regional and local. Simultaneously, political institutions at the various levels of government have introduced new mechanisms for direct citizen participation in the political process, such as participatory budgeting, public consultations, citizen juris or mini publics.

This Blended Intensive Program will critically examine the topic of democracy, citizens and new forms of civic engagement from a multilevel, cross-country and multidisciplinary perspective, including political science, law, sociology and urban studies. It aims to provide students with the theoretical and analytical tools to recognize the various forms of civic engagement, understand the interplay between institutional and extra-institutional domains of citizen participation, and maintain a critical view regarding the scope and limitations of the different form of civic engagement with regard to political impact and democratic transformation.

Main topics addressed

  • Theory and history of representative democracy and citizen participation.
  • Changes of values system and new forms of civic engagement.
  • Institutional mechanisms for direct citizen participation in the political process.
  • Participatory and deliberative democracy.
  • Digital citizen participation.
  • Social movements: repertoires & cycles of collective action.
  • New forms of collective action for co-producing urban common goods in the transformation of democratic cities.
  • Accessibility and inclusiveness of democratic channels for vulnerable people and minorities, with a special focus on immigrants.
  • Conceptualization and empirical taxonomy of old and new forms of civic engagement.

Learning outcomes

  • Critical knowledge on the various forms of political participation and civic engagement.
  • Skills in participating in multidisciplinary debates on democratic civic engagement and their relationship with concrete issues faced by democracies at urban, regional, national and transnational level.
  • Methodological and analytical skills on collecting and sorting out empirical data.
  • Critical thinking on the political impact of different forms of civic collective action.
  • Skills in working in international teams to solve common problems.
  • Critical reflection on one’s involvement in the various forms of civic engagement.
Dates: 1 October - 13 December 2024 Total workload: 90 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 3*
Location: Madrid, Spain Language: English 

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.


Physical mobility

The physical mobility session will take place between 27-31 January 2025.

This program will be delivered through a mix of seminars, deliberative workshops, roundtables, and guided visits to Madrid with a range of activities over the five days. The focus will be first on the new forms of civic engagement at the local, national, and European level, then on the coexistence of those forms with representative politics. This will result in a critical understanding of the taxonomy of old and new forms of civic engagement as well as an in-depth knowledge of study cases.

Activities in Madrid include the following visits:

  • Visit to the Spanish Parliament (Congreso de los Diputados) where students will be able to learn about the political experience of MPs. This provides them direct knowledge of representative democracy.
  • Visit to a neighborhood popular assembly (self-managed social centre) where student will talk to local activists. This provides them with an in-depth understanding of non-institutional collective civic engagement.
  • Visit to different places in Madrid to identify expressions and situations of street politics as well as a gathering with activists of immigrants’ associations.

There will be two roundtables for presenting and discussing different forms of civic engagement from the most individualized and artistic expressions to the most institutionalized through channels of either representative or direct democracy. Among participants there will be representatives of the EU Parliament in Madrid, experts in the design and implementation of digital and deliberative democracy mechanisms, social movements activists (XRebellion, PAH anti-eviction), representatives of local and regional neighborhood associations, and activists of artistic and performative collectives (Homo Velamine).

After each roundtable, a deliberative workshop will take place in order to critically analyze and reflect about the experiences previously presented and looking for drawing some basic conclusions.  

Finally, there will also be a half-day seminar that will allow students to present their work in a friendly atmosphere, discussing with lecturers and classmates, leading to improve their teamwork assignment before the final submission.

Virtual part

18/10/2024, 15:00 – 17:00 CET

1st virtual session ∕∕ Theory and history of representative democracy and civic engagement. An introduction ∕ Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.

25/10/2024, 15:00 – 17:00 CET           

2nd virtual session ∕∕  A subjectivistic turn? Meanings of Democracy and Participation ∕ University of Tübingen, Germany.

08/11/2024, 15:00 – 17:00 CET

3rd virtual session ∕∕ Conceptualization and taxonomy of old and new forms of civic engagement ∕ Autónoma University of Madrid, Spain & University of Tübingen, Germany.

15/11/2024, 15:00 – 17:00 CET

4th virtual session ∕∕ Digital citizen participation and the stakes for representative democracy ∕ National and Kapodistrian university of Athens, Greece.

22/11/2024, 15:00 – 17:00 CET

5th virtual session ∕∕ Citizen participation in the EU ∕ Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain & Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

29/11/2024, 15:00 – 17:00 CET

6th virtual session ∕∕ Democratic channels for immigrant minorities ∕∕ Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.

06/12/2024, 15:00 – 17:00 CET

7th virtual session ∕∕ Civic engagement & urban democracy ∕ University of Glasgow, Scotland.

13/12/2024, 15:00 – 17:00 CET

8th virtual session ∕∕ Virtual Program wrap- up and connection with the Physical Week Program ∕ Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.


Bachelor and Master Students from all disciplines (prioritizing Political Science, Sociology, Constitutional Law, Urban Studies, Cultural Studies) with the following profile:

- Regularly enrolled at one CIVIS member universities

- Good English skills (B2)

- Interest in the topic attested through these aspects (each one counts one point):

  • personal engagement in civil society organizations,
  • own research (including Bachelor or Master thesis),
  • future academic / professional perspectives.

- Convincing motivation letter (max. 1 page – around 500 words)

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Students from CIVIS’ strategic partner universities in Africa cannot apply for participation in this course.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 28 April 2024, including:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter
  • Level of English (B2)

Applications will be evaluated based on:

  • Quality, clarity and detail of motivation.
  • Quality/ suitability of background, explained clearly and concisely, and supported by the CV.

Therefore, please:

  • Explain your motivation in applying for this course, by highlighting your interest and academic (or other) background, knowledge, education and/ or experience in civic engagement and democratic politics.
  • Expand the above in the uploaded motivation letter (max. 1000 words) and ensure your CV clearly supports this.
  • Let us know what you hope to achieve from this course.

Apply now


In order to receive the certificate of attendance and the 3 ECTS credits related to this course, students are required to undertake the following mandatory activities:

  • Attendance at least 75% of the lessons during the virtual mobility (including one hour tutorial to supervise the teamwork).
  • Elaborate a research project (in groups of 3 to 5 students) to be submitted for evaluation at the end of March.
  • Attendance at least 75% of the training activities during the physical mobility.
  • Present their research projects to the seminar session of the physical phase.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.



Prof. Dr Ross Beveridge is Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow. He is an interdisciplinary urbanist, having studied History (University of Manchester) and International Studies (Newcastle University), before conducting EU-funded research on urban infrastructures in Europe. He joined Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow in 2015 from the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) in Germany, where he worked for 6 years in various research and teaching posts. His most recent book is How Cities Can Transform Democracy, co-authored with Philippe Koch (ZHAW Zurich) and published with Polity Press in 2022.

Prof. Dr Luis Bouza García is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Autonomous University of Madrid, where he coordinates the research group on Politics and Government in the European Union. He is a member of the European projects RECLAIM (2022-2025) and OpenEUdebate (2018 – 2023). He has previously been a professor of political science at the University of Salamanca and the Carlos III University and has been a postdoctoral researcher at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. He is a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges.

Prof. Dr Vassiliki Christou is Assistant Professor of Constitutional Law at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Law School, since 2020. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Athens (2001) and her PhD studies at the University of Heidelberg (2006). Visiting College Research Associate at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge (2018), and Guest Researcher at Max Planck Institute for Foreign Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg (2007, 2012). Vassiliki’s areas of interest are constitutional law, human rights, theories of rights, comparative public law, and constitutional history. Author of three books and of more than 50 articles.

Prof. Dr Rolf Frankenberger studied Political Science, Sociology and Psychology and wrote his PhD on Postmodern Society. Currently, he is Managing Director of the Institute for Research on Far-Right Extremism at University of Tübingen. Previously, he was a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Institute of Political Science. His research focuses on Lifeworld and Democracy, Far Right Extremism and Political Cultures.

Prof. Dr Fabiola Mota Consejero is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Autonomous University of Madrid, where she teaches the subject of Comparative Politics. Her research interests include attitudes and opinions of political elites and citizens; civil society and citizen participation; and decentralization and territorial politics with a focus on multilevel governance. She has published three books and more than a dozen of articles and chapters on those topics. Among the most recent is the paper 'Transforming Urban Democracy Through Social Movements: The Experience of Ahora Madrid', in the Journal of Social Movement Studies (2023).

Dr Alvaro Oleart is an FNRS postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science and Institute for European Studies of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Previously, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science of Maastricht University, and a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the department of Political Science and Public Administration of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is the author of the book “Framing TTIP in the European Public Spheres: Towards an Empowering Dissensus for EU Integration” (Palgrave, 2021) and "Democracy Without Politics in EU Citizen Participation: From European Demoi to Decolonial Multitude" (Palgrave, 2023).

Prof. Dr Santiago Pérez-Nievas is Professor in the Political Science and International Relations Department at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM). His research interests include political parties and electoral behavior with a focus on multilevel contexts, and the electoral behavior and political representation of immigrant-origin minorities. On these topics, he has published articles in scientific journals (South European Society and Politics, American Behavioral Scientist, Revista de Investigaciones Sociológicas, Migraciones, among others) as well as chapters in collective books (Routledge, Palgrave, Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas).