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Global Challenges: Prosperity


Admission requirements



Global Challenges (GCs) are major problems confronting humanity and the planet. GCs cannot be singularly solved by one nation, organization, or approach. Addressing global challenges requires sustained multi- and interdisciplinary critical scholarly reflection and collaboration among academics, the public, governmental, and non-governmental organisations to develop deeper understandings of the problems we face and ethical and effective responses.

Do human societies progress? It seems uncontestable that some societies have made immense leaps forward over the last 200 years, reaching levels of wealth and welfare that had long been unthinkable. This is also particularly evident when considering various aspects of individual health, with the global average life expectancy increasing from 52.6 years in 1960 to 72.2 years in 2017. Technology, in all its guises, has been an essential driver of this progress. At the same time, however, it is clear that both welfare and health gains have been unevenly spread: while Norwegians on average live until they are 81 and face a 0.3% chance that their newborn baby will die before the age of 5, Malians only live for 51 years and face a 13% chance of child mortality. To account for this global inequality in development and health outcomes, social scientists argue that innovation and human welfare are contingent on the ways in which people work together, and the rules they construct to facilitate this collaboration (or ‘institutions’). This course introduces students to the ways in which institutions shape human welfare and health and in how the ‘right’ institutions can be designed and reinforced. As such, it provides students with analytical tools to understand and address the global challenges of governance, health policy and international development.

Course Objectives


  • Critically read and evaluate scholarly literature in the social sciences with a focus on identifying driving assumptions and theoretical mechanisms.

  • Critically present, interpret and assess basic social science comparative data and indicators.

  • Practice academic writing, with a focus on both developing well-constructed arguments and on the critical evaluation of these arguments.

  • Apply theoretical concepts to real-life scenarios and understand the challenges and limitations of such applications.


  • Understand the diversity of scholarly approaches in conceptualizing and measuring human prosperity and development; and be able to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses and applicability to different contexts of these approaches. Link prosperity and health to the key challenge of human cooperation.

  • Understand the logic of collective action and principal-agent models as analytical tools to study challenges in human cooperation.

  • Consider three broad categories of solutions conducive to cooperation and prosperity, namely the market, state and community. Be able to identify the promises and pitfalls of each. Understand the trade-offs implied by choosing one solution over another and the degree to which they are mixed in real-life cases.

  • Explore the role health plays in development and human prosperity and analyze real-world cases of market, state and community health policies.

  • Learn about intervention strategies in development and health and think about the responsibility that comes with promoting any type of intervention.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course is taught through weekly 2-hour lectures and 2-hour interactive seminars.

Assessment Method

Class participation, all weeks, 10%
Factsheet, week 1, 15%
Case application, week 3, 15%
Solution essay, Week 6, 25%
Final exam, Week 8, 35%

The detailed instructions for all assessments will be presented on Brightspace during the course. Students must submit all graded assignments to be able to pass the course. The Grading Policy (Appendix I) and Attendance Policy (Appendix II) will be attached to the course syllabus.

Reading list

Most of the literature for each lecture and/or seminar will be placed on Brightspace, where you will find the majority of articles and chapters. Students are required to read the mandatory literature in preparation for each lecture and/or seminar; moreover, they need to be prepared to discuss the readings in seminars. In the case that material cannot appear on Blackboard, the web link will be placed in the syllabus. Students might be required to acquire 1-2 books for the course; if that is the case this information will be communicated via email one week before the course starts.


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, course.administration@luc.leidenuniv.nl.


Dr. Diana Branduse (convener), d.m.branduse@luc.leidenuniv.nl.