History of the Institute

Research and teaching in the area of Swiss Politics have been carried out at the University of Berne since 1961, when Erich Gruner was appointed Chair of "Social History and Sociology of Swiss Politics", a position which he held until his retirement in 1984. Professor Gruner was one of the pioneers of Swiss political science, substantially influencing research on political parties, parliament, and organized interests. In 1965, he founded the "Research Center for the History and Sociology of Swiss Politics" (Forschungszentrum für Geschichte und Soziologie der Schweizerischen Politik), thereby laying the foundations for the subsequent creation of the Institute of Political Science at the University of Berne. At the beginning, the institute's activities consisted mainly of third-party funded research on Swiss politics, such as the Annual Yearbook of Swiss Politics (published since 1965) and the Vox-Analyses of federal referenda and initiatives (1977 – 2016), while teaching activities were mostly carried out as part of the economics curriculum.

After Professor Gruner's retirement, Professor Peter Gilg held the Chair of Swiss Politics ad interim until Professor Wolf Linder was appointed Chair and Head of the Institute in 1987. With the appointment of Prof. Linder, political science was introduced as a minor at the University of Berne. Subsequently, teaching and research activities were expanded, and in 1993, a second Chair (Comparative and European Politics) was created and political science became a major subject at the University. Since its creation, the Chair of Comparative and European Politics has been held by Prof. Klaus Armingeon.

The Institute has five full professors. The third full professorship, added in 2007, was first held by Prof. Dr. Marco Steenbergen and taken over by Prof. Dr. Markus Freitag in August 2011. With the appointment of Prof. Dr. Adrian Vatter to the Chair of Swiss Politics (previously held by Emeritus Prof. Dr. Wolf Linder until summer 2009), the Institute continues to be at the forefront of research in Swiss politics. In 2014 the former two assistant professorships were transformed into full professorships. The chairs are held by Prof. Dr. Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen and Prof. Dr. Karin Ingold. The current research foci at the Institute concentrate on the Swiss political system, comparative politics, European and environmental policy, and political sociology. Particular attention is paid to comparative research on developments in Switzerland and Europe.