About the Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA)


What are the effects of globalisation on democracy?
How does electronic voting change direct democracy?
What are the aims of civic education in democracies?

At the ZDA, some 45 researchers address these and similar questions. We are a research centre that conducts basic research and engages with topical questions on democracy – in Switzerland, in Europe, and worldwide.

Bearing on current political issues

We research the forms, qualities, and challenges of democracy from the perspective of political science, jurisprudence, and political education/history didactics. The annual Aarau Democracy Days, which we organize, consist of public events on research themes with a bearing on current political questions. In addition we organise expert conferences and provide academic advisory and support services for the projects and events of our supporting institutions. The ZDA also develops teaching materials for civic education and history didactics.

Annual reports ZDA

Exceptional collaborations

The ZDA is jointly supported and financed by the Canton Aargau, the City of Aarau, the University of Zurich and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland. Important impulses towards the founding of the ZDA in 2009 came from the national research focus «Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century».

Research-based expertise

The aim is that our research findings be made available to the public. Our expertise is much in demand by the media. We consider it our role to assess the soundness of arguments and to comment on current developments with research-based knowledge – towards contributing to democratic opinion formation. The ZDA is politically independent and accordingly does not provide any referendum, popular initiative or election recommendations.

A workplace with a history

The ZDA conducts its research in the Villa Blumenhalde, which was designed by Heinrich Zschokke (1771-1848), and who moved into the building with his family in 1818. Originally from Magdeburg, Zschokke contributed substantially to the creation of the institutions of Canton Aargau and that of modern Switzerland. Thus, the current use of the building, to research democracy, is an excellent fit with Zschokke’s legacy and the history of the Blumenhalde. The neo-classical villa belongs to the Ortsbürgergemeinde Aarau.

Blumenhalde ZDA
Villa Blumenhalde in Aarau, designed by Heinrich Zschokke
Source: ZDA