Campus - 08.04.2022 - 00:00 

Master’s students simulate parliament

In the course "HSG in the Federal Parliament - Legislation in Theory and Practice", 15 Master's students simulated a current legislative process. The two-day visit to the Federal Parliament also included guest lectures and a meeting with Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter.

8. April 2022. The implementation of the special master's course at the HSG was initiated by Council of States member Andrea Caroni. While studying in the U.S., he became aware of a course at Harvard University that involved a hands-on visit to Parliament. "It was so popular among students that only a few were able to get a place," explains the lawyer and politician from Appenzell Ausserrhoden.

Practical insight into lawmaking

Andrea Caroni found the idea of students gaining personal insight into the practical workings of the parliament, while at the same time training themselves in text editing and debate, so captivating that he wanted to launch a similar project in Switzerland. He also learned that there is already a course in criminal law at the HSG that centers on a real criminal case heard in a so-called moot court (fictional court). In Stefan G. Schmid, professor of public law with a focus on constitutional law at the University of St.Gallen, he finally found a lecturer who was enthusiastic about the idea of offering his students practical insight into the mechanisms of lawmaking at the federal level.

Together, the Council of States and the HSG professor launched the master's course "HSG in the Federal Parliament - Legislation in Theory and Practice". After the course had been held online for the last two years due to the Corona pandemic, it was now possible to hold part of the event directly in the Federal Palace in Bern for the first time in the first week of April. Beforehand, the 15 course participants had been given the task of formulating a draft decree together with a message on a current political issue in the role of the federal administration. The choice fell on the introduction of the legislative initiative at the federal level, a business initiated by National Councilor Gabriela Suter, which is currently still pending.

Two-day debate focused on the Federal Palace

Last Monday, the 15 students traveled to Bern with the formulated draft decree. Over the course of two days, they debated the formulated content of their work in the Federal Palace in the roles assigned to them by the administration and parliament. The focus was on simulating the parliamentary process. The participants first discussed in groups ("parliamentary groups") and then the selected draft decree together as the "plenum" of a committee of the Council of States.

The program also included a meeting with the national councilor who initiated the draft decree, Gabriela Suter, and guest presentations by Michael Schöll, Director of the Federal Office of Justice, Ruth Lüthi, Deputy Secretary of the State Policy Commissions, Vice Chancellor André Simonazzi, President of the Council of States Thomas Hefti and National Councilor Beat Walti. One of the highlights of their stay in Bern was a meeting with Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter. She greeted the HSG Master's students in the Salon de la Présidence next to the room of the Federal Council, which the students were also allowed to visit.

The two days in Bern were followed by two more course days at the University of St.Gallen, where the students expertly presented and lively discussed topics of legislation and parliamentary law. Among other things, they raised questions about the quality of legislation, the peculiarities of legislative language, the challenges of multilingualism, the influence of lobbying, and emergency and urgent law.

Students committed and passionate about their work

According to Andrea Caroni, the students were enthusiastic about their visit to the Federal Parliament. For him, the nicest piece of feedback he received was hearing about how the students poured their heart and souls into their tasks. For Stefan Schmid, it is clear that the course will continue to be offered in the future. "The course program is unique in Switzerland and represents a unique experience for the students," emphasizes the HSG professor. The course familiarizes them with the practical processes of parliamentary procedure and at the same time offers the opportunity to deepen the theoretical foundations of lawmaking and to train in text editing and oral argumentation.

Text: Claudia Schmid

Image: HSG in the Federal Parliament

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