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Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Governing Wicked Problems


Admission requirements

  • Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management, enrolled in the specialisation ‘Governance of Radicalism, Extremism and Terrorism’, can take this course.


The aim of this course is to familiarise students with the governance of terrorism and the complexities arising in counterterrorism. Taking this combined perspective enables students to understand why dealing with terrorism and counterterrorism are wicked problems. Students are encouraged to adopt a critical attitude and be aware of dilemmas and unintended consequences that can arise from counterterrorism policies. Academic/analytical frameworks are applied to understand how terrorism and counterterrorism respond to each other and evolve to create new challenges. An understanding of decision-making dilemmas and risk of negative consequences helps students to analyse issues related to terrorism and counterterrorism and all kind of multifaceted policy challenges in today’s complex and ever-changing world.

An array of historical and contemporary examples are used to illustrate multifaceted challenges of counterterrorism. For example, targeted strikes against terrorists can immediately reduce group capabilities but can also trigger radicalisation in the targeted communities potentially leading to long-term negative consequences.

Students learn and practice analysis skills in this course.

Course Objectives

After finalising this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and apply, based on advanced academic knowledge and understanding of the principles of academic research, relevant theoretical or analytical frameworks and methodologies to break down and analyse real life wicked problems and concrete cases in the field of terrorism and counterterrorism in a conceptually and methodologically rigorous manner.
  2. Map assumptions and opinions regarding a wicked problem, mapping related security risks and policies, showing advanced knowledge of methodologies commonly used.
  3. Assess and make judgements regarding the various assumptions and opinions and their related risks and policies.
  4. Write and present a strategic analysis regarding a current terrorism related wicked problem.
  5. Present research outcomes in various formats and for academic and professional audiences.
  6. Self-evaluate and reflect after interactive in-class work and individual assignments.


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

Mode of Instruction

A combination of interactive lectures and activating workgroups (two sessions per week). In the lectures, students will learn the key principles of research, and the relevant concepts and methodologies. In the workgroups, students will practise research design and methods by applying the concepts, testing theories, and analysing empirical material. The workgroups will, amongst others, consist of in-class assignments, team performances, and exercises that feature compulsory formative (non-graded) assignments that will help the student prepare for the summative (graded) assignments.

Attendance is mandatory. Students are only allowed to miss a maximum of two sessions if there are special, demonstrable personal circumstances. The Board of Examiners, in consultation with the study advisors, will decide on such an exceptional exemption of mandatory attendance.

10 EC = 280 hours
Contact hours = 42 hours
Self-study hours = 238 hours

In this 10 ects course, 4 ects is specifically reserved for the Analysis of complex phenomena assignment that is going to be part of the portfolio of students, including working on their interim reflection paper as preparation for the final reflection paper. Specific information on the portfolio assignment and the intended learning outcomes that are being acquired will be published in the syllabus of this course.

Assessment method

Assessment for this course is based on three assignments:


  • 35% of final grade

  • Grade can be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50)

  • Resit not possible.

Final exam

  • 50% of final grade

  • a 5.50 is required to pass the course,

  • Resit is possible

  • Resit will take the same form


  • 15% of final grade

  • Grade cannot be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50)

  • Resit not possible.

Additional, formative (non-graded) assignments are an obligatory part of the course.

The calculated overall course grade must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course. If the calculated overall course grade is lower than 5.50, students are also permitted to resit the 50% final exam.

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.

Transitional arrangement
Passed partial grades obtained in year 2022-2023 remain valid during year 2023-2024 but they will weigh towards the final grade in accordance with the weight given to partial grades in the year 23-24.

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, to 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 Wednesday 13 December 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.

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


dr. Graig R. Klein

Dr. Bart Schuurman