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Institutions of Governance and Development


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



How do you think about the policy, political, economic, and social questions dominating so many Global Challenges related to governance and development? Scholarly conversations on these topics historically have constructed different theoretical frameworks for thinking about these kinds of questions of various types that help them to develop theories, or to ‘rigorously imagine’ how the world might actually be working, by providing categories, concepts, logics, and other assumptions that help simplify the complex and confusing world into something that we can more easily grasp and hypothesize about. In this class we will be focusing on becoming fluent in a centrally influential interdisciplinary theoretical framework – the New Institutionalism – with an eye to, yes, mastering it, but also viewing it as one of many potential ways of looking at these questions. Specifically, we will focus on using our study of this framework to reflect on how we as individuals think about these questions right now, and how we might best pursue answers to these key governance and development questions underlying so many Global Challenges.

Global challenges are nearly all at some level issues of governance and development. Why are some countries poor while others are wealthy? Why do well-established seemingly well-functioning countries not tackle serious challenges like climate change more aggressively? Why are human rights enforced by governments in some countries, while not in others? Why are some diverse communities pacific and cooperative, while others are divisive and violent? We ask questions of ‘Why?’ and connectedly ‘How?’ in relation to these big questions commensurate with the big challenges. As a foundational course of the Governance, Economics, and Development, this course aims to provide students with one foundational scholarly understanding of how to tackle these questions.

This course does this by introducing students to the new institutional perspective, which focuses on the formal and informal rules that structure human interaction. This specifical framework can provide powerful insights into these questions as evaluating the institutional foundations of decisions within and development of communities across time provides strong testable inferences about the origins of problems.
More importantly, perhaps, the institutional perspective suggest an avenue by which we can look for solutions to these challenges because many institutions are of intentional human design, and thus can be designed differently. In other cases, a scientific understanding of the constraints facing human individuals may not point the way to solutions, but at least suggest which solutions are unlikely to work or worse, may have less desirable consequences.

However, we also will critically reflect on this task in the following way: We will continually have to ask ourselves questions such as:

On what basis we find this framework informative and authoritative; providing insights we will take into account in our thinking moving forward, and demand other theoretical frameworks account for?

On what questions does this framework admit modification and exention to address surprisingly broader issues, and relatedly…

On what questions does this framework find itself useless?

In doing so we will model a manner in which students will reflect on how they should approach all new theories and frameworks in their broader LUC education regardless of the major they choose.

Even so, by exploring these themes, students who enroll in this course can expect to be be presented with, and asked to critically engage with many if not most of the themes of the Governance, Economics, and Development programme in a unified framework.

Course Objectives

  • Define the key concepts of the new institutional framework for studying social processes and change.

  • Differentiate the processes of governance and development in terms of these concepts.

  • Apply key concepts and frameworks for evaluating the role of institution in shaping governance outcomes or development processes to a specific case.

  • Communicate familiarity with basic methodological issues of evaluating institutional analyses of governance and development questions.

  • Compare, contrast, and synthesize the new institutional framework with their own ‘baseline mental framework’ for how the social world works.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Specific instructors will conduct the course in different ways – balancing lectured/recorded material and seminar based discussion. Please inquire with the instructor in whose course you plan on enrolling. Generally, participation in class discussion will play a large role in the course. However, students will be asked to do one oral presentation regarding a session’s material’s as per the instructors directions.

Students are always, as in all GED courses, highly recommended to form discussion groups outside of class to review and discuss the readings.

Assessment Method

  • 15% participation

  • 20% Weekly quizzes (5% each)

  • 15% Application presentation and discussion leadership

  • 15% in-class midterm essay ( 1 hour)

  • 15% synthetic reflection essay

  • 20% Application paper

Reading list

North, Douglas. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

As well as other excerpts, journal articles, and manuscripts available during 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. Brandon Zicha, (coordinator)


There will be readings distributed by the first week of class. Students will also receive a reading list suggesting sources that will help you familiarize yourself with certain basic economic principles that will help with but not be required to understand elements early in the course.

Students will receive reading for the first meeting via Brightspace after enrolling. Please e-mail the instructor If you have not heard from the instructor as the first session approaches so that he may personally send them to you.