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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 the course is to familiarise students with the governance of terrorism and to understand why dealing with terrorism is a wicked problem. The concept of a wicked problem enables students to work with an academic/analytical framework to understand real-life cases in the field of terrorism and the complexities that arise in the field of counterterrorism. An example is what to do with returning foreign fighters and their families or how to deal with organisations that have both a political and a militant wing.

Another aim of the course is to encourage students to adopt a critical attitude and to be aware of dilemmas and unintended consequences that might arise from counterterrorism policies. For instance, labelling certain groups as radical/extremist or adding them to lists of designated terrorist organisations might have a variety of (unwanted) effects on the general public and support groups. An understanding of wickedness and dilemmas 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.

The course will end with a final event in which the students will present their strategic analysis to a panel including professionals in the field of counterterrorism.

Course Objectives

After finalizing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the development of the concept of wicked problems, 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 E-guide 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, peer review and exercises and feature several 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 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

Students are not obliged to hand in an assignment at the first opportunity in order to make use of the re-sit opportunity. The re-sit assignment will test the same course objectives, but will be different in terms of topics, cases or substance.

Midterm paper, 30% of final grade
Course can be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50), resit not possible.

Final paper, 50% of final grade
Grade cannot be compensated, a 5.50 is required to pass the course

Group presentation, 20% of final grade
Course can 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 grade of the assignments must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course.
If a student passed an assignment, it is not possible to participate in a re-sit in order to obtain a higher grade. Students are only permitted to resit the 50% assignment if they have a calculated overall course lower than 5.50.

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, to be announced on Brightspace.


Register for every course and workgroup via uSis.
Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course. 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.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. Important information about the course is posted here.
After enrolment for the course in uSis you are also enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn