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Vital Interests


Admission requirements

Mandatory course for students enrolled in the bachelor’s programme Security Studies.


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, prioritization 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.

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 successful completion of this course, students will:

  • Be able to identify and contextualise trends and threats in the field of security and safety, and place them in a broader societal context.

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

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

  • Be able to think critically about political and cultural viewpoints on vital interests and to address ethical dilemmas in security and safety governance.

  • Be able to identify and evaluate different methods and strategies, as well as value their applicability and relevance, to address vital interests in contemporary society.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide Bachelor Security Studies you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

14 plenary lectures
4 course labs in smaller groups (attendance is mandatory)

Course Load

Total study load of 280 hours:

  • Contact hours: 54

  • Self-study hours: 223

  • Examination: 3

Assessment method

  • Reading journals: 15%

  • Individual portfolio negotiation game: 25%

  • Written exam (final): 60%

Attendance for the course labs is mandatory. Missing more than 1 session will lead to a fail. Participation in the negotiation game (course lab 4) is mandatory as it is linked to the portfolio. In case of a fail no grades will be given, only a fail. This implies that a resit will not lead to a pass.

Compensation rule
Only assessments weighting 30% and less are compensable. This means that one does not have to pass an assessment if it weighs 30% or less in order to pass the course, if the average of all assessments combined is at least a 5.50. In addition, assignments weighing 30% or less are not re-sitable, meaning that if one failed an assessment of 30% and less, one is not allowed to resit it.

More information will be available on the Blackboard page.

Resit will take the same form.

Transitional Arrangement
Students who participated in the course “Vital Interests” in academic year 2018-2019 but did not manage to pass the course will take part in the following transitional arrangement:
1. Students who did not pass the individual paper, group paper, and the exam in the academic year of 2018-2019 will follow this year’s rules regarding the assessment methods for this course.
2. Students who did not pass their individual and/or group paper (25%) but did pass the exam (50%) will keep their passed grade for the exam (which will weigh for 60% of the exam grade when calculating the final results) but have to participate in the course labs, submit the reading journals and do the individual portfolio for the negotiation game.
3. Students who passed their individual paper and group paper and have also attended the necessary amount of course labs will keep their passed grade for these assignments, will not have to do the reading journals and the individual portfolio for the negotiation game, but will have to retake the final exam (which will, as last year, count for 50% of the exam grade when calculating the final results)


Course page will be available one week in advance

Reading list

Information on readings will be announced on Blackboard


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.

Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.

Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted there.


Dr. D.W.J. Broeders