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Terrorism and Counterterrorism


Admission requirements

Mandatory course for students enrolled in the bachelor’s programme Security Studies.


The threat of terrorism remains a priority on political agendas worldwide. Yet, for all the attention that this phenomenon has gained, many aspects of terrorism and counterterrorism remain poorly understood. This course has two main objectives. First of all, it aims to provide students with a thorough introduction to the most pertinent aspects of 20th and 21st century terrorism and counterterrorism. Reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the field, students will acquire an understanding of key issues ranging from an historical overview of modern terrorism to the macro, meso and micro-level causes of involvement in this form of political violence. Secondly, the course will familiarise students with the various opportunities and obstacles for conducting interdisciplinary research on these subjects. The overall goal is to enable students to critically assess and participate in ongoing debates on terrorism and counterterrorism from a variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives.

The course begins by providing an overview of what terrorism is, focusing on the subjectivity at the heart of many interpretations of the concept and attempting to gain clarity through comparisons with others forms of political violence. This conceptual discussion is complemented with a detailed look at terrorism’s recent historical development. Building on this basis, each subsequent week of the course will focus on a particular aspect of terrorism and counterterrorism. The course progressively introduces a broader array of topics and deepens students’ understanding of both the issues at stake and recurring concerns related to the production and interpretation of knowledge on those subjects.

Throughout the course, active student participation is expected in order to engage in critical reflection on the subjects being discussed.

Course objectives

After this course students are able to:

  • Acquire knowledge and an all-round understanding of current manifestations of (international) terrorism and counterterrorism;

  • Acquire knowledge and understanding of several basic concepts and/or methods in:

  • International Relations & Political Science * Sociology and Psychology * Law and Criminology * Communication and media * Public Policy and Governance

  • Critically assess and reflect on current terrorism-related phenomena;

  • Analyse the specific methodological, theoretical and conceptual challenges in researching terrorism and counterterrorism;

  • Understand the state-of-the-art of contemporary research on (counter)terrorism;

  • Construct and articulate arguments about terrorism and counterterrorism in both professional, public and academic settings.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

14 plenary lectures
4 course labs in smaller groups

Attendance of the course labs is mandatory. If you miss more than 1 course lab you fail the course and won’t obtain a final grade.

Total study load of 280 hours:

  • Contact hours: 54

  • Self-study hours: 223

  • Examination: 3

Assessment method

Written paper

  • 40% of final grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit of a fail is possible.

  • Resit will take the same form

Final exam with mc questions

  • 45% of final grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit of a fail is possible.

  • Resit will take the same form

Individual presentation

  • 15% of final grade

  • Grade must be compensated

    • Resit not possible.

Transitional arrangement:
Passed partial grades obtained in year 2019-2020 remain valid during year 2020-2021. Students who did not meet the course lab attendance requirements in 2019-2020 are required to attend the course labs in 2020-2021

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, to be announced on Brightspace.


Register for every course and workgroup via uSis.
Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. Important information about the course is posted here.
After enrolment for the course in uSis you are also enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Dr. Bart Schuurman Dr. Yannick Veilleux-Lepage