Policy, Law, and Regional Autonomy in Europe

Examine independence movements in Spain and Scotland, and explore the future of the nation state and regional autonomy in Europe.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Jan 31 ‎– May 15

On Site Component

Jan 31 ‎– May 15

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries

Scotland, France

Program Base

Bilbao, Spain

Critical Global Issue of Study

Peace & Justice

Peace & Justice Icon

Geopolitics & Power

Geopolitics & Power Icon


Why study autonomy in Bilbao?

Steeped in culture, the de facto capital of Basque country is a dynamic place from which to explore independence politics in Spain and beyond. Site visits and discussions here and in the Catalonian city of Girona, hub of another secession movement, will give you firsthand experience interacting with pro- and anti-independence political leaders, policymakers, and activists. On excursions to Barcelona, French Basque Region, and Scotland, you’ll get an insider’s perspective on one of the hottest issues in Europe and see history in the making.

UNESCO named the port city of Bilbao a “City of Design” because of its unique architecture, food, and cultural institutions, including the famed Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.


  • Travel to Barcelona, Girona, the French Basque Region, and Scotland.
  • Study Spanish at the University of Deusto's International Spanish Center.
  • Examine historical roots of ethnic and national conflict in Spain and other European nations.
  • Meet Scottish independence leaders in Edinburgh.


Previous college-level coursework or background in policy studies, European studies, international studies, political science, sociology, anthropology or pre-law studies, as assessed by SIT.


Examine Catalonian Politics

Travel to Girona and Barcelona for an up-close look at the Catalan political system and nationalist demands. Understand the institutional arrangements of regional autonomy, independence referendums and the constitutionality and implications of independence movements. Meet with legislators at the Catalan parliament in Barcelona, nationalist and pro-Spain political party leaders, local activists, and municipal representatives to understand the polarizing positions that stem from the independence process.

Discover Guernica

A proud symbol of Basque identity due to its resistance to Nazi air attack during the Spanish Civil War, the small town of Guernica remains an important place to deepen your understanding of the Basque country’s separate identity. Explore the cultural significance of Pablo Picasso’s famous murals of the same name. Visits to the Museo de la Paz (Peace Museum) and other sites, as well as social and political organizations, will bring to life the Basque national identity.

Basque Political and Legislative Capital

Get a closer look at the Basque political system with a trip to Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque autonomous region. Overshadowed by the region’s more populous and influential city of Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz boasts impressive renaissance architecture and a well-preserved medieval center. Meet with Basque politicians to learn about their stance on Basque independence. Visit social organizations that focus on nationalism, cultural rescue, memory, and Basque identity.

France Basque Country

Cross the border and discover another facet of Basque national identity through shared history, linguistic, and cultural roots within France. Here, nestled between the Bay of Biscay and the rugged foothills of the Pyrenees, you’ll explore repercussions of one of the longest national conflicts in contemporary Europe and compare how Spain, France, and the EU have handled it. You’ll visit French Basque social and political organizations and speak with people involved in the political, national, and peace processes.

Brexit in Scotland

From the land of kilts, tartans, and bagpipes, explore Scotland’s pro-independence movement. Compare Scottish and Catalonian cases for independence and analyze the factors that led to the passage of an independence referendum in one and its defeat in the other. Attend classes in Glasgow at the University of Stranthclyde and meet with students and academics. Explore with policymakers what Brexit means for Scottish independence and the desire to remain in the EU.

Travel to Girona and Barcelona for an up-close look at the Catalan political system and nationalist demands. Understand the institutional arrangements of regional autonomy, independence referendums and the constitutionality and implications of independence movements. Meet with legislators at the Catalan parliament in Barcelona, nationalist and pro-Spain political party leaders, local activists, and municipal representatives to understand the polarizing positions that stem from the independence process.


Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.



Access virtual library guide.

Coursework includes seminars, courses, and Spanish language instruction. Students are required to participate in a seminar on research methods and ethics in preparation for a self-designed independent research project. This field-based independent project draws from program lectures, visits, and discussion themes, without the use of archival or library resources.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Actual course content may vary to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Cultural institutions and Basque identity
  • Catalonia's independence movement and constitutional crisis in Spain
  • Comparative approach to social policy in Spain and Scotland
  • Regional autonomy, EU policy, and the future of European integration
  • Comparative politics, human rights, and social movements research

Comparative Regional Autonomy and Independence Movements in Europe

Comparative Regional Autonomy and Independence Movements in Europe – syllabus
(EURO/POLI3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar provides a comparative approach to the analysis and comprehension of national minorities, pro-independence movements, and the emerging new regionalism in the context of the European Union. The Basque, Catalonian, and Scottish cases provide excellent case studies for an understanding of the underlying dynamics between EU members and national minorities and ways in which ethnic and national cleavages shape European contemporary policy, legal, political systems, and societal dynamics. The seminar also describes and analyzes the impact of macroeconomic policies and neoliberal austerity measures imposed by the EU on the Spanish, Catalan, and Scottish peoples and the effect that the latter have had pro- independence claims. Overall, the seminar provides a comparative overview of the different perspectives about the struggle for self-determination and pro-independence in Spain and Scotland.

Policy, Law, and the Future of the Nation State in Europe

Policy, Law, and the Future of the Nation State in Europe – syllabus
(EURO/POLI3500 / 3 credits)

During this course, students develop an understanding of the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of ethnic and national cleavages in Spain and other European nations. Students learn about the European Union’s institutional and political framework and its influence on the internal political and judicial systems of EU members. The course uses a multidimensional approach to explore and analyze from legal, policy, and human rights perspectives some of the main issues facing the contemporary European Union in the context of regional autonomies and independence movements. Using empirical examples from the Basque country, Catalonia, and Scotland, students assess, from a comparative perspective, the legal, institutional, and policy architecture developed by the European Union and EU’s regulation and policy approach to sovereignty, citizenship, and the claim to statehood. The course also addresses the current state of human and cultural rights in the EU, and most concretely, in the Basque country and Catalonia, and assesses the future of the nation-state in the context of regional independence movements. The course includes lectures by academics, meetings with policy makers, and field visits to cultural and memory sites in the Basque Country and Catalonia.


Beginning Spanish I – syllabus
(SPAN1003 / 3 credits)

Beginning Spanish II – syllabus
(SPAN1503 / 3 credits)

Intermediate Spanish – syllabus
(SPAN2003 / 3 credits)

Spanish for Policy and Legal Studies: Intermediate High – syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits)

Spanish for Policy and Legal Studies: Advanced – syllabus
(SPAN3003 / 3 credits)

This course aims to develop sophisticated skills in speaking, understanding, reading and writing Spanish for policy and legal purposes, through traditional classroom instruction and field-based activities. While emphasis is placed primarily upon oral comprehension and developing conversational competencies (i.e., listening and speaking), reading and writing are also highlighted as crucial to the reinforcement of those skills. The homestay experience helps the student hone their proficiency in conversational Spanish and grasp cultural practices in the Spanish world. Vocabulary about policy and legal context is built into the course and introduced through audiovisual materials and experiential activities accompanying the textbook that has been specifically prepared for SIT program students. This high intermediate level of Spanish gives the students in-depth background into everyday life, enabling the grasp of critical language skills necessary for performing a variety of activities. The objective of the course is to review and expand on topics including communicating with Spanish-speaking politicians and law-makers, building the student’s practical legal terminology in Spanish, and enhancing the student’s oral and written communication skills in Spanish. Spanish courses take place at the International Spanish Center, University of Deusto, SIT’s partner in Bilbao.

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

The Research Methods and Ethics (RME) seminar introduces students to the conceptual and practical tools for gathering primary data and the knowledge and skills that are essential to forming constructive relationships with organizations and/or individuals, which are necessary for completing an academic project in the cultural context of Spain. The main emphasis is on the development of empirical tools and ethics of interactive research skills involving the collection of primary data. The seminar includes lectures on qualitative and quantitative research methods in politics, human rights, and social movements. A module on comparative methods of research in social sciences, policy, and law prepares students for research on comparative politics, legal research, and comparative projects on policy analysis. The seminar uses lectures, readings, and field assignments to prepare students to undertake field study in the cultural context of Spain in strict observance of research procedures involving human subjects and the regulatory ethical norms defined by the Local Review Board (LRB) and SIT’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The overall aim is to help students hone their experience-based learning processes and prepare them for the development of an Independent Study Project (ISP), which is largely based on the data gathered from primary sources.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project (ISP) is a self-designed research project offering students the opportunity to undertake a personally significant and independent investigation, which highlights the regional and cultural reality that can only be encountered during a study abroad experience. The ISP is the academic component in which the student most directly applies the concepts, skills, tools, and techniques of experience-based learning articulated through the Research Methods and Ethics course and the thematic courses, while enabling students to further integrate their language skills and the contacts they have developed in the homestay and in the broader community. Each student will plan, develop, and independently undertake a research project, with the advice and guidance of the academic director and an ISP Advisor—a local academic and/or health or humanitarian aid professional. The topic of study may be anything of interest to the student, within the scope of the program and the immediate region, and is usually developed out of lectures, discussions, field visits, and educational excursions. The final project should provide material evidence of student capability in utilizing appropriate methodologies and in synthesizing experiences in the host culture. Students are expected to complete 120 hours of field-based (non-archival, non-library) research on their topic, submit a substantial written paper, and deliver an accompanying oral presentation. It is not uncommon for ISPs to strongly contribute to the student’s choice of subject for graduate studies or professional career.

Sample topic areas:

  • Perceptions of the Catalonia’s independence movement in the Basque country
  • Self-determination and constitutional crisis in Spain
  • Comparative approach to the independence referendum in Catalonia and Scotland
  • Basque nationalism and collective memory
  • Comparative approach to social policy in Catalonia and the Basque country
  • Public policy in the context of national minorities
  • Public policies in national
  • Law in social theory: the case of the Basque country
  • Law, justice, and human rights
  • The future of the nation state in Europe: policy and legal perspectives

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects and undergraduate research.



Spend 12 weeks living with a local family in the multicultural city of Bilbao and become immersed in the daily life and the rich cultural heritage of your host family. You’ll experience what it’s like to be part of a Spanish Basque family as you participate in colorful Spanish and Basque traditions and celebrations.

Your host family will share their insider tips about how to spend leisure time in and around the city. Take in Bilbao from the comfort of a river boat down the Ria del Nervión with a number of famous attractions along its banks, like the Ribera Market, the iconic Guggenheim Museum and the historic Ayuntamiento, the historic town hall. Known for its specialty cuisine, Bilbao is also home to some of the country’s best pintxos bars (taverns with small bites) worth exploring with new friends and your homestay family.

Other Accommodations

Hostels and modest hotels

Career Paths

Students on this program may consider career paths in different sectors including with:

  • Public policy consultancy organizations

  • Pressure groups

  • Public relations companies

  • European Commission Delegation in Washington

  • International Development agencies

  • Government and administrative institutions

Faculty & Staff

Spain: Policy, Law, and Regional Autonomy in Europe

Victor Tricot, PhD
Academic Director
Zuriñe Leon, MA
Program Assistant
María Luisa Sánchez Barrueco, PhD

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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  • Study Abroad in Spain with SIT

    Take a sneak speak into our Spain: Policy, Law, and Regional Autonomy in Europe program with Academic Director Victor Tricot as he discusses examining regional autonomies through excursions to Barcelona, Girona, the French Basque Region, and Scotland.

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