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Crisis Leadership


Admission requirements

This course is designed for students of the Honours College of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences but is also open for students from other Honours tracks.


In recent years, Western societies have witnessed a variety of crises and disasters: acts of terrorism (the 9/11 attacks; the London and Madrid bombings; the attacks on Mumbai, Paris, Brussels, Munich and Nice), natural disasters (hurricanes Katrina and Sandy; the Asian tsunami; the California wildfires, German floods; the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal), man-made disasters (space shuttle Columbia; the financial crisis; the BP oil spill; the Icelandic ash crisis; international conflicts (the Middle East; Ukraine) and illegal migration flows

Crises pose hard challenges for public leaders and the organizations they manage. Post-crisis investigations routinely document a plethora of failures: public authorities often fail to read early warning signals, understand unfolding disasters, make correct decisions, communicate effectively with the general public, learn from crises, and account for their actions.

This seminar aims to enhance students’ understanding of the complex challenges that crises pose. The seminar will build on a mix of theory, real-life cases, and policy documents. Students will learn to apply theoretical insights to the analysis of crisis cases, formulating actionable advice for public authorities.

Course objectives

Students will learn about the main theories that explain the causes and patterns of crises and disasters. They will learn how to apply these theories to reconstruct real-life crisis and disaster cases. They will learn about the specific role and responsibilities of public authorities before, during, and after a crisis or disaster. They will learn how political leaders deal with crisis management challenges and how the various courses of action affect crisis outcomes. They will learn how institutional, political and social contexts enable and constrain (international) crisis management capacity.


Click to check the programme.

Mode of instruction

The class will be taught seminar-style. This means much interaction between instructor and students. Students will work in small groups (“Syndicats”) on class assignments, which will serve as a basis for class discussion. Students will be expected to come to class prepared and actively participate in group discussions. Class attendance is required.

Assessment method

Students are expected to complete three formal assignments for this course:

  1. A book review – select a book on crisis management and write a three-page review (1000-1500 words). This assignment will account for 25% of your grade.
  2. Movie review – select a movie or documentary on crisis management and write a three-page review (1000-1500 words). This assignment will account for 25% of your grade.
  3. Group product: Students will work together in their Syndicate to complete a project aimed to improve the practice of crisis management. They may interview a practitioner, study a disaster plan, debate an evaluation report, or create a scenario. The group product must be presented in video format (mini-doc form). This will count as 50% of your grade.

Reading list

Additional literature will be announced on Blackboard.


If you want to participate, write a letter in which you explain why you want to take part in this course. Interview is part of the selection process. We are looking for students who are highly motivated to participate in an active way in order to achieve the course objectives.
For Honours College FSW students: registrate in your personal subplan as well.


Prof.dr. R.A. Boin.


Number of maximum participants is 25.