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Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice


Admission requirements

This course is designed for the minor Security, Safety and Justice, taught in The Hague by lecturers from Leiden University. It is not possible to follow single courses of this minor. You need to be enrolled in Usis for the minor to be accepted to this course. There are 80 places open for registration, on a first come first serve basis, where LDE students are given priority.

This course is not open for inbound exchange students.

Students who have already completed the Coursera MOOC “Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory & Practice” are still obliged to attend the lectures and complete all the class assignments to pass this regular course.


Terrorism has arguably been one of the defining factors of our age. It frequently makes headlines, threatening or attacking governments, private businesses and ordinary citizens. In many parts of the world, it has even been one of the most prominent threats to peace, security and stability. But what exactly is terrorism, how can we study it, and how can we limit the impact of it on society? This and more will be discussed in this course.

Week structure:

  1. Definition of terrorism
  2. Doing research on (counter)terrorism
  3. Five assumptions on terrorism
  4. Five assumptions on counterterrorism
  5. Dealing with terrorism
  6. Foreign fighters

This course is taught fully online due to the COVID-19 situation.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the notion of terrorism as an instrument to achieve certain political and ideological goals

  • Interpret terrorism definitions and argue whether or not certain act(or)s align with these definitions

  • Analyse (counter)terrorism phenomena, events, and policies based on the appropriate theoretical models and insights

  • Judge the relevancy and effectiveness of counterterrorism policies and strategies

  • Evaluate counterterrorism policies and formulate recommendations for improvements


Schedule 2020 to be announced.

The timetable will be displayed with a link on the website and on the front page of this minor programme.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught fully online, using a combination of pre-recorded videos (MOOC), livestreams with all students and response videos.

Class format:

  • Weekly video lectures on Coursera

  • Livestreams in week 1, 3, 5 and 7

  • Response videos in week 2, 4, 6

The total study load for this course is 140 hours, consisting of:

  • 18 hours lectures and seminars

  • 7 hours videos

  • 115 hours studying – work on assignments

Assessment method

Midterm assignment (individual)

  • 25% of total grade

  • No resit possible

Group assignment

  • 25% of total grade

  • No resit possible

Take home exam

  • 50% of total grade

  • Resit possible

  • Resit will take the same form

  • Grade must be 5.50 or higher to pass the course

Participation requirements: Students need to write at least 1 post (>100 words) on the Brightspace Discussion Forum each week (you can miss one week, so 6 out of 7 weeks) + 1 post in the designated threads for the midterm (1x) and the group assignments (1x). In addition, we ask you to send in a question on Brightspace for the Final Panel discussion.
If you do not fulfil these participation requirements, you need to hand in an extra essay of 1500 words (to be found on Brightspace) before we will release the grade of your take home exam.

Late hand in penalty: 0,5 minus per day, and after seven days we do not accept assignments any longer.

Reading list

Edwin Bakker, Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory & Practice (Leiden University Press, 2015)

Additional articles on current affairs relating to terrorism & counterterrorism: t.b.d.


Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course, after registration for the entire minor.
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.




  • This course is part of the minor SSJ and Global Affairs; lectures are combined.

  • All sessions will be in English.

  • Midterm assignments need to be written in English.

  • Lectures take place online