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Intelligence and Policymaking


Admission requirements

  • Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management, enrolled in the specialisation ‘Intelligence and National Security’, can take this course.


What role does intelligence play in policymaking? How do policymakers use intelligence when making policy, and is it the responsibility of the intelligence community to be heard? Also, in our current ‘information age’ where everyone can get access to raw data, do decision-makers still need intelligence?

This course takes a dive into the role and challenges of intelligence in decision-making. How does intelligence and foresight affect the decisions made at the highest level? We divide this subject up in several stages. You will learn about the process of policymaking, particularly in the field of security, and how this process is not just complex but also political. We will consider how decision-makers actually make policy and what information/biases they use as inputs for this process. Then, we discuss how the intelligence community relates to this: what is the role of the intelligence community? What do they need from decision-makers? Finally, in this course you will study the particular challenges in this relationship, based on real-world examples from the past years. We will zoom in on the challenges arising from the information age but also look at the politicisation of intelligence.

Central to this course will be the research skill of analysis. The students will learn to apply the theories, debates or analytical frameworks discussed in this module in order systematically assess, interpret, and explain contemporary strategic surprises and intelligence failures, such as the 2014 Crimea annexation, and the way the relationship between analysts and policymakers has played a role in the lead-up to these surprises. Students will learn to formulate a research plan to deconstruct and analyse such complex phenomena and challenges.

This course will provide students with an advanced understanding of the relationship between the producers and the consumers of knowledge and intelligence, the challenges in this relationship and key factors which may improve this relationship. Students will thus enter the labour market with an improved understanding of how to produce and communicate knowledge – intelligence or other forms of expertise – effectively to decision-makers. The real-life case studies, moreover, give students insights in the most current challenges dominating the professional field.

Course objectives

Academic skills
After finalising this course, students will have acquired

  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of how to analyse complex phenomena and wicked problems

  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of the core concepts and debates on the relationship between intelligence and policymakers

  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of the key theoretical frameworks on the intelligence-policy nexus

  • Awareness of the challenges in the relationship between decision-makers and analysts/experts

  • The ability to define and analyse the key challenges in the relationship between intelligence and policymakers from both the perspective of the policymaker and the intelligence analyst

Professional skills
After finalising this course, students will be able to:

  • Transfer these academic insights into a professional context through the use of real-world case studies

  • Understand the key tenets of how to produce and communicate intelligence and other forms of knowledge to decision-makers

  • Present results of (academic) research in written and oral briefings individually and as a group

  • Collaborate in a team on a collective project

  • 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

The course will consist of a combination of (guest) lectures and interactive group sessions. In the lectures, students will learn about the key theoretical debates, concepts and theories on policymaking and surrounding the intelligence-policy relationship, from the fields of public policy studies and intelligence studies. In the interactive sessions, students will learn to apply these concepts to case studies and examples taken from current affairs. The interactive sessions 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.

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.

10 EC = 280 hours
Contact hours = 42 hours
Self-study hours = 238

Assessment method

Group assignment

  • 20% of final grade

  • Resit not possible

  • Grade can be compensated

Mid-term paper

  • 30% of final grade

  • Resit not possible

  • Grade can be compensated

Final paper

  • 50% of final grade

  • Grade must be 5,5 or higher to pass the course

  • Resit possible

  • Resit will take the same form

Students will also be permitted to resit the 50% final paper if they have a calculated overall course grade lower than 5.50 or with permission of the Board of Examiners. The group assignment and the mid-term paper must be compensated.

Potential additional, formative (non-graded) assignments are an obligatory part of the course.
The corresponding Brightspace course will become available one week prior to the first seminar.

Transitional Arrangement
Passed partial grades obtained in year 2021-2022 remain valid during year 2022-2023.

Reading list

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


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams). Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.

Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 14 December 13.00h.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

After registration for an exam you still need to confirm your attendance via MyStudymap. If you do not confirm, you will ultimately be de-registered and you will not be allowed to take the exam.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis. Guest-/contract-/exchange students also do not have to confirm their participation for exams via MyStudymap.


Dr. Nikki Ikani