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Sharing Scarcity: The Commons




Admissions requirements

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!

Please note: this is the former Foundations of Common Pool Resource Management course, so students who have already completed that course, cannot enroll in Sharing Scarcity.


Content: The commons (public and common-pooled goods) are shared among people who may not agree on how to provide or protect them. Those disagreements underlie the many examples of commons challenges that we face today, e.g., failures in public provision of education, health and/or transportation, and public and national security (public goods) or depletion of the atmosphere (climate change), open-water fisheries, water supplies and so on (common-pooled goods).

Students in this 100-level course will explore different management paradigms, successes and failures in managing the 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.

Themes: Sustainability, politics, individual and group behavior, incentives, institutions

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.


Once available, timetables will be published in 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.


Class participation: 15% (continuous weeks 1-7)
Homework quizzes and/or reading assignments: 35% (due weeks 2-6)
Individual contribution to group presentation: 15% (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.

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

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


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


David Zetland (
Leiden University College, Room 4.37


NB: Students are advised to choose one of two `‘Scarcity” courses in the co-convened GED/EES track. Enrollment priority will go to students who have not taken the other “Scarcity” course.