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Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice


Admission requirements

This course is designed for the minor Security, Safety and Justice, taught in The Hague by lecturers from Leiden University. It is not possible to follow single courses of this minor. You need to be enrolled in Usis for the minor to be accepted to this course.

This course is not open for inbound exchange students.

Students who have already completed the Coursera MOOC “Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory & Practice” are still obliged to attend the lectures and complete all the class assignments to pass this regular course.


Terrorism has arguably been one of the defining factors of our age. It frequently makes headlines, threatening or attacking governments, private businesses and ordinary citizens. In many parts of the world, it has even been one of the most prominent threats to peace, security and stability. But what exactly is terrorism, how can we study it, and how can we limit the impact of it on society? This and more will be discussed in this course.

Week structure:

  1. Definition of terrorism
  2. Doing research on (counter)terrorism
  3. Five assumptions on terrorism
  4. Five assumptions on counterterrorism
  5. Dealing with terrorism
  6. Foreign fighters

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the notion of terrorism as an instrument to achieve certain political and ideological goals

  • Interpret terrorism definitions and argue whether or not certain act(or)s align with these definitions

  • Analyse (counter)terrorism phenomena, events, and policies based on the appropriate theoretical models and insights

  • Judge the relevancy and effectiveness of counterterrorism policies and strategies

  • Evaluate counterterrorism policies and formulate recommendations for improvements


Schedule 2021 to be announced.

The timetable will be displayed with a link on the website and on the front page of this minor programme.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught fully online, using a combination of pre-recorded videos (MOOC), livestreams with all students and response videos.

Class format:

Class format:

  • Weekly video lectures on Coursera

  • Opening lecture in week 1

  • Two workshops in smaller groups in week 3 and week 5

  • Final symposium in week 7

  • Paper feedback sessions (attendance is optional)

The total study load for this course is 140 hours, consisting of:

  • 18 hours lectures and seminars

  • 7 hours videos

  • 115 hours studying – work on assignments

Assessment method

Midterm assignment (individual)

  • 30% of total grade

  • Resit not possible

  • Compensation is possible

Written exam (individual)

  • 70% of total grade

  • Resit possible

  • Resit will take the same form

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

Participation requirements: Students need to send in a question on Brightspace for the Final Panel discussion.

Late hand in penalty: 0,5 minus per day, and after seven days we do not accept papers any longer.

Reading list

Edwin Bakker, Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory & Practice (Leiden University Press, 2015)

Additional articles on current affairs relating to terrorism & counterterrorism: t.b.d.


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.



  • This course is part of the minor SSJ and Global Affairs; lectures are combined.

  • All sessions will be in English.

  • All assignments need to be written in English.