Johanna has joined the School as a Newton International Fellow in February 2018. Her postdoc project, funded by the British Academy, examines the centralising effect of conditional grants in Australia, Canada, and the United States. Federal grants that are earmarked for specific purposes have been identified as the main instruments through which federal governments centralise power in their hands. The project examines the degree to which provinces and states can shape the genesis of policy programs funded through conditional grants so as to mitigate their centralising effect, focusing on programs such as Medicaid in the United States and Medicare in Australia and Canada.
Before coming to Kent, Johanna completed a PhD at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where she taught courses on comparative and Swiss politics, political science concepts, and federalism. In her doctoral research, she examined the role of intergovernmental councils in managing the various interdependencies that exist in today’s federations, focusing on education and fiscal policy. In September 2018, she was awarded a doctoral dissertation award (Prix de Faculté) by the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lausanne. At the University of Lausanne, Johanna also contributed to a research project on fiscal consolidation in federal states, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The results of this research project have been published by Routledge in 2017.


Research interests

  •  Comparative Politics 
  • Public Policy (esp. Education, Health Care, and Fiscal Policy) 
  • Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations 
  • Countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, United States

 Current projects

An Instrument of Centralisation? The Politics of Conditional Grants in Federal States, funded by the British Academy     


Johanna has taught courses at the University of Lausanne were: 

  • Public Policy Evaluation (academic year 2017/18)
  • Public Policy Making in Switzerland (2017/18), Comparative and Swiss Politics (2016/17 and 2017/18)
  • Political Science Concepts (2014/15 and 2015/16)
  • Comparative Politics (2013/14, 2014/15, and 2015/16)

Johanna has also taught a course Comparing Western Democracy at the University of Gießen in 2011





  • Schnabel, J. (2019). Fiscal Consolidation in Federal Belgium: Collective Action Problem and Solutions. Politics of the Low Countries [Online]. Available at: http://www.elevenjournals.com.
    Fiscal consolidation confronts federal states with a collective action problem, especially in federations with a tightly coupled fiscal regime such as Belgium. However, the Belgian federation has successfully solved this collective action problem even though it lacks the political institutions that the literature on dynamic federalism has identified as the main mechanisms through which federal states achieve cooperation across levels of government. This article argues that the regionalization of the party system, on the one hand, and the rationalization of the deficit problem by the High Council of Finance, on the other, are crucial to understand how Belgium was able to solve the collective action problem despite its tightly coupled fiscal regime and particularly high levels of deficits and debts. The article thus emphasizes the importance of compromise and consensus in reducing deficits and debts in federal states.
  • Schnabel, J. and Mueller, S. (2017). Vertical Influence or Horizontal Coordination? The Purpose of Intergovernmental Councils in Switzerland. Regional & Federal Studies [Online] 27:549-572. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13597566.2017.1368017.
    In 1993, the Swiss cantons established the conference of cantonal governments (KdK). While the literature on Swiss federalism generally acknowledges the important role of the KdK, little is known about its specific purpose, in particular compared to other, older intergovernmental councils operating in Switzerland. We therefore investigate the purpose of the KdK and contrast it with two other intercantonal conferences with nationwide scope, namely those on education and finance. To do so, we trace two of the most important federal reform processes of the last decade: the latest renewal of fiscal equalization and educational harmonization. We find a division of labour between the KdK and policy-specific councils. While the former aims at vertical political influence, the latter primarily engage in genuine horizontal policy coordination. This flexible and smooth interplay of the two types of councils has contributed to further strengthening the political role of the cantons in the Swiss federation.
  • Schnabel, J. (2017). Committed to Coordination? Intergovernmental Councils as a Federal Safeguard. Swiss Political Science Review [Online] 23:191-206. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/spsr.12248.
    In this research note, I suggest that the design of intergovernmental councils (IGC) accounts for the extent to which they are able to prevent the federal government from encroaching on subnational jurisdictions. IGC operate in areas of interdependence where the federal government faces incentives to restore to hierarchical coordination. The effect of the intergovernmental safeguard is measured by the absence or presence of federal encroachment. Two concepts are useful to explain it: the extent to which governments are committed to coordination and the dominance of the federal government of vertical IGC. I argue that different combinations of the two variables help to understand the safeguarding effect of intergovernmental councils. In particular, I contend that in any configuration in which federal dominance is present the federal government can encroach on subnational jurisdictions. The research note shows how the concept of federal safeguards can be applied empirically.

Book section

  • Braun, D. and Schnabel, J. (2019). Policy-Making as a Source of Change in Federalism: A Dynamic Approach. In: Configurations, Dynamics and Mechanisms of Multilevel Governance. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 199-215. Available at: https://www.springerprofessional.de/policy-making-as-a-source-of-change-in-federalism-a-dynamic-appr/16438340.
    Policy problems are an important source of change in federal systems. This chapter argues that federations’ performance depends on how federal actors find solutions to specific policy problems. Because the search for policy solutions may touch upon the basic interests of governments of a federation, robust performance can only be achieved if they find appropriate policy solutions and avoid federal conflicts at once. Drawing on their research on fiscal consolidation and the harmonisation of education policy, Braun and Schnabel develop an analytical model to evaluate federations’ performance in individual policy areas that stresses federalism’s dynamic character. In distinguishing four ways of governance in which federations tackle policy problems on their agenda (self-rule, arguing, bargaining, hierarchy), they explain why some federations seem to struggle more than others in achieving robustness even though all four governance modes have the potential to effectively solve policy problems as well as minimise federal conflicts.


  • Schnabel, J. (2020). Managing Interdependencies in Federal States: Intergovernmental Councils and the Making of Public Policy. [Online]. Palgrave Macmillan. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-35461-9.
  • Braun, D., Ruiz-Palmero, C. and Schnabel, J. (2017). Fiscal Consolidation in Federal States. Conflicts and Solutions. [Online]. Abingdon/New York: Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/Consolidation-Policies-in-Federal-States-Conflicts-and-Solutions-1st/Braun-Ruiz-Palmero-Schnabel/p/book/9781138642010.
    The Global Financial Crisis has led to a renewed attention for the management of public debt and deficits of advanced and developing industrial states. To successfully deal with such problems of public finances raises particular concerns in federal states where fiscal competencies are split between two levels of government. This book offers comparative in-depth knowledge of political struggles related to fiscal consolidation policies in eleven federal states since the 1990s, including the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath. It identifies conditions that lead to "robust" solutions that can both commit federal actors to prudent fiscal policy-making and avoid conflicts between federal actors that cause federal instability.
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