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Institutions in Time


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Institutions of Governance and Development and/or Introduction to Comparative Politics


The world is an unequal place. It hosts the unparalleled wealth and opportunities of the rich OECD countries, alongside the crushing poverty of the ‘bottom billion’. Moreover, this enormous development gap may never be greater than it is today. But what is this concept of ‘development’? How does it work? And, perhaps most importantly, what can we do to enhance it? These are the questions at the core of development studies and the International Development track at LUC. Institutions in Time explores the ways in which institutions, or the rules and organisations that structure society, change over time and the ways in which this may affect human development. To this end, the course will take students through the different ways of analyzing long historical processes and explore the usefulness of theories of institutional change as a means to understand the process that drives development. Students are also challenged to apply their (newfound) knowledge to case studies, in order to get a better appreciation of the complexity of structural societal change. Most importantly, the course helps students to think critically about assumptions of linear progress and simple, technocratic solutions in international development, and to formulate their own thoughts on what might actually ‘work’.

A lot of you will graduate and go and work in the development sector. This course will not tell you what specific development programmes or policy reforms to focus on, or how to implement them. The overarching goal in this course is to intellectually guide you to understand some of the big, revolutionary ideas and theories as well as case studies in international development. Particular emphasis will be given to topics such as: the historical legacies of slavery and colonialism, path dependence and increasing returns, timing and sequence in political processes, the limits of institutional design and institutional development, formal and informal institutions in time, democratization and institutional adaptation, and the nature and character of the state, etc.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Describe core challenges of international development empirically and identify different theoretical approaches to these challenges.

  • Show proficiency in reproducing concepts and theories of institutional change.

  • Apply concepts and theories of institutional change to key research problems in the field of international development.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

There are two main teaching methods used in this course: lectures and tutorials.

Lectures: The instructor will deliver a lecture based on the required readings. Lectures will provide an overview of the dedicated topic for the week in question. Each class will begin with a brief question and answer period related to the readings or to previous lectures. This period will be followed by the lecture for the day. At the end of each lecture there will also be a brief period for questions from students. Come prepared to engage with the instructor, your fellow students, and the material to be discussed.

Tutorials: The instructor’s lectures, presentations, readings, and in-class debates will be complemented with tutorials. The goal of tutorials is to provide a forum for students to discuss their thoughts and ideas in a seminar style. Tutorials often closely follow the Socratic method, where the student presents his or her findings and the professor rigorously questions every assumption made by the student while also drawing the other students into the discussion. Two students will be in charge of leading each tutorial discussion, and every student will have the opportunity to be a discussion leader. During the tutorial session, the discussion leaders will guide the discussion and the presentation. The discussion leaders will also need to make sure the discussion stays on topic and that the group does not lose track of the task. In short, the discussion leaders should consider themselves as the lead presenters. The discussion leaders are positions that you can volunteer for on a weekly basis. This is a fun task, but if you find no other motivation please note that it counts positively and significantly towards your participation grade. In the rare event that there is no volunteer, the instructor can assign students to take on these roles.

Assessment Method

Class participation, 10%
Assignments, 30%
Short essays, 40%
Final essay, 20%

Reading list

The list of readings will be made available upon commencement of the course.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. David Ehrhardt
Dr. Ayo Adedokun