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Security and Intelligence


Admission requirements

  • Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can take this course.


To many people, the world of intelligence and security services might seem like a James Bond movie. As is the case with most movies, reality is quite different. But what these services actually do on a day-to-day basis, why they do what they do, how they operate, what their tasks are, and on what legal basis they operate, is often unknown.

There is widespread recognition that a good knowledge of how security and intelligence agencies operate; of the environment in which they operate; and of how their products are, and should be, used has become a key component of good and successful security governance. In this course we will study these organisations and focus on their functioning worldwide. Departing from perceptions of these bulwarks of secrecy, we will analyse the way these services are institutionalised and embedded. The course focuses on relating academic and historical analyses to contemporary problems and policy questions mainly in western states, while also paying attention to the non-Western world of intelligence.

On the basis of primary and secondary materials we will explore the position and day-to-day operations of intelligence and security agencies within the context of the democratic state and the rule of law. With regard to research skills, the course emphasises skills that the intelligence community itself has been urged to develop in the wake of 9/11, such as better intelligence analysis skills, including critical thinking, and a greater ability to evaluate and assess disparate sources of often conflicting information.

This course aims to (1) introduce students into the role that intelligence plays in the field of security; (2) enable students to critically reflect on the role and position of intelligence and intelligence and security agencies in their broader political and societal environment.

Course Objectives

After finalizing this course, students are able to:

  1. Understand, based on advanced knowledge of the state of the art in the academic literature in this field, the multidisciplinary field of intelligence studies and its relation to the social sciences, history, political sciences, and public administration.
  2. Identify and apply relevant theoretical or analytical frameworks and methodologies to analyse real life problems and cases in the field of intelligence in a conceptually and methodological rigorous manner.
  3. Understand, based on in-depth knowledge, what intelligence is, what intelligence and security services do, how they are embedded in the democratic state in terms of oversight and control, who benefits from intelligence and how policymakers and politicians perceive intelligence officials and analysis.
  4. Define and analyse intelligence (in terms of historical developments, modus operandi, oversight, control, and added value to policy makers and politicians).
  5. To reflect on the position of intelligence communities in their broader societal, bureaucratic, and political environments.
  6. Apply a critical mind-set and awareness to reflect on intelligence related issues such as their modus operandi, their political sensitivity and the issue of oversight, not only in an academic setting but in a broader public debate as well.


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

The course uses interactive discussions, small group based work focusing on challenges and dilemmas in intelligence and participation of experts in the field of intelligence as guest lectures to develop student’s knowledge and skills. In total, seven weekly plenary sessions will be dedicated to (guest) lectures, group discussions and small group work and presentations;

  • To provide students with the advance knowledge and understanding of the field, an in-depth understanding of the main questions and answers in the field and the ability to analyse intelligence in its broader societal and political environment - weekly sessions will be dedicated to (guest) lectures and group discussions. Students are required to participate actively in class discussions.

  • To teach students how to critically reflect on the intelligence and security agencies – the students will conduct two small group assignments focusing on the challenges in the field such as oversight and accountability, international and local cooperation and prioritisation.

  • To this end, the group will be split into smaller working groups of 5-6 students working on a number of real life case studies. In week one, the students will be introduced to the methodology and from week two to five, the weekly sessions have one hour dedicated to students working in small groups on their group exercise and with week three focusing on and five having students present their findings.

Attendance is mandatory. Students are only allowed to miss one session 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.

Study load 140 hours:

  • 21 Contact hours

  • 119 Self-study hours: reading, preparing lectures, assignments, etc.

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.

  • Individual assignment consisting of quizzes and a take-home essay question – 70% of final grade
    Grade cannot be compensated, a 5.50 is required to pass the course

  • Group assignment - 30% of final grade
    Course can be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50), resit not possible.

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 70% 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.


Liesbeth van der Heide, MA


Please be aware that this is an intense, participatory, small group work-based course and attendance is mandatory. Registration for this course demands a commitment both in terms of time and critical thinking.