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Sharing Scarcity: The Commons


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None. Please note that 100-level courses do not mean “less work” but “less preparation” (as in no prerequisite courses needed). This is not a course for students who do not have time to study!

Completion of Academic Writing is recommended.


The commons are shared among people who may not agree on how to manage them. Those disagreements underlie the many examples of commons challenges that we face today, e.g., climate chaos, COVID-19, depletion of open-water fisheries, local air and water pollution, failures in public provision of education, health and/or transportation, and public and national security.

Students in this 100-level course will explore different management paradigms, successes and failures in managing commons using case studies, theoretical readings, experiments, and in-class exercises. (You are not expected to know anything about these topics before starting the class.) A major component of this class --- the group project --- will give students hands-on experience in understanding and addressing a commons challenge.

Course Objectives


  • Have experience in tackling a real-world commons challenge.

  • Have extended experience in working within a group charged with delivering results.


  • Be able to explain commons challenges in terms of causes, impacts and potential responses.


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

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. Students will be expected to participate in both large and small group discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for its quality.

Assessment Method

  • Class participation: 10% (continuous weeks 1-7)

  • Study team: 10% (continuous weeks 1-7)

  • Homework, quizzes and/or reading assignments: 35% (due weeks 2-6)

  • Individual contribution to group presentation: 10% (due week 7)

  • Individual contribution to group report: 35% (due reading week)

NB: Group projects are an important part of this class. Individual grades on group work will be assessed by the instructor.

Reading list

  • Ostrom, Gardner and Walker (1994). Rules, Games, and Common-Pool Resources. Ann Arbor Books.

NB: This is a 330-page, graduate-level textbook.


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 Zetland,