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Vital Interests


Admission requirements

Mandatory course for students enrolled in the bachelor’s programme Security Studies.
Only students enrolled into the bachelor’s programme Security Studies can follow this course. This course is also open for inbound exchange students. Exchange students must be admitted by the FGGA International Office prior to the start of the course.


In this Bachelor programme, we have defined security and safety broadly as relating to protection from harm and threats against acquired values. This is a very broad and general definition. It leaves unspecified what ‘protection’ consists of, which ‘harms’ we are speaking of, and which ‘acquired values’ are deemed worthy of protection. It is this latter point – the key assets, interests or values that we choose to protect (over others) that are at the heart of this course. We label them as vital interests in society. The course Vital interests is all about identification, prioritisation and decision making about vital interests in contemporary societies.

Against the background of limited means, decision-makers (politicians, regulators, policy-makers and others) must make decisions with regard to prioritising risks and choosing which interests to protect. First and foremost, of course, they may do so on the basis of an understanding of the likelihood of the materialisation of a given harm and the potential consequences (economic, social, practical, ethical, political) it may have. However, probabilities are not always easy to establish conclusively, especially in relation to modern-day complex global safety and security challenges. Another key aspect of the course is how, why and under what circumstances states choose to protect national interests and international, collective interests or ‘global public goods’.

When critically assessing the labelling and prioritisation of vital interests, students must learn to consistently ask why something is considered a vital interest, for whom (who benefits, who doesn’t), what the potential effects are, and which legitimation(s) are used for it.

Course objectives

After this course students are able to:

  • Identify and contextualise trends and threats related to vital interests in the field of security and safety, and place them in a broader societal context.

  • Use theoretical principles, empirical findings and analytical models in relation to decision-making about vital interests, informed by various academic disciplines.

  • Identify and understand how actors make decisions on vital interests, and prioritise risks in relation to their consequences, possible impact, and other values.

  • Think critically about political and cultural viewpoints on vital interests and to address related ethical dilemmas.


On the right side of the programme front page 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 grade.

Total study load of 280 hours:

  • Contact hours: 54

  • Self-study hours: 223

  • Examination: 3

Assessment method

Course lab assignment

  • 15% of final grade

  • Grade can be compensated

  • Resit not possible

Mid-term assignment

  • 25% of final grade

  • Grade can be compensated

  • Resit not possible

Written final exam

  • 60% of final grade

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher

  • Resit of a fail is possible.

  • Resit will take the same form

Students who passed the final exam but have a calculated overall course grade lower than 5.50 are permitted to resit the written exam (60%).

Transitional arrangement
Passed partial grades obtained in year 2022-2023 remain valid during year 2023-2024. Students who did not meet the course lab attendance requirements in 2022-2023 are required to attend the course labs in 2023-2024.

Please contact the study advisors in case you have any questions in regards to a failed course lab assignment and a passed attendance requirement.

In the case of written assessment methods, the examiner can always initiate a follow-up conversation with the student to establish whether the learning objectives have been met.

Reading list

A selection of book chapters and articles will be announced on Brightspace.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams).
Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.
Registration for this course is possible from Tuesday 11 July 13.00h

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course. Furthermore, announcements and modifications will be communicated via Brightspace. Students have the responsibility to stay informed and are thus advised to regularly check Brightspace for updates.

After registration for an exam you still need to confirm your attendance via MyStudymap. If you do not confirm, you will ultimately be de-registered and you will not be allowed to take the exam.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis. Guest-/contract-/exchange students also do not have to confirm their participation for exams via MyStudymap.


Dr. Lydie Cabane course coordinator

Prof. Dr. Dennis Broeders


For exceptions, please contact the Board of Examiners.