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Inter-disciplinary teaching at Leiden: A blueprint for the future

Source: Leiden University

The world stands at a critical juncture. We have 14 years until the impacts of climate change become irreversible. Countries are struggling with huge refugee movements. Deep poverty remains. Technology is sorely lacking a protection mechanism for the vulnerable.

A common thread runs through this list of challenges: it’s going to take the collective effort of everyone to ensure they’re solved. Tomorrow’s leaders and future-solvers will need an background in multiple disciplines and a inter-dimensional skillset.

One university specialises in these particular topics: Leiden University.

As the Netherlands’ oldest university, Leiden has long been a fertile ground for rich discussion and analysis by students and faculty from all walks to life. The Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs (FGGA) may be the newest faculty to join this renowned institution, but it continues this centuries-old tradition, delving deep into the important socio-cultural issues of the 21st century.

The FGGA is located fully and exclusively in The Hague, together with Leiden University College (LUC). The profile of the city – peace, justice and security – as well as the many other opportunities offered are in abundance for Leiden students based here.

Interdisciplinarity is the focus. Faculty and staff understand that substantial scientific knowledge is crucial, but insufficient if not combined with the perspectives of public administration, political science, law, sociology and economics. All this means one thing – that Leiden is a school for the future.

Source: Leiden University

Leiden University College: An intensive, student-centred study of the liberal arts and sciences

At LUC, diving deep into the global challenges of today is not a one-dimensional exercise. First years on the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Liberal Arts & Sciences take four mandatory courses, expanding their outlooks while introducing them to several fields of study: Peace & Justice, Sustainability, Prosperity and Diversity.

Specialists from different fields give seven plenary lectures, highlighting a new topic every week. Seven small-scale seminars then follow so students can apply knowledge gained in lectures to real-world cases.

LUC Dean, Prof. Dr. Judi Mesman, says:

“Our approach is broader than other, more specific programmes and our students explore a wide range of subjects, with many important themes that impinge on one another. Current events feature strongly in the programme.”

In the second and third-year, students design their curriculum with the help of academic advisers, giving a helping hand in the selection of majors, minors and electives. The mandatory Global Citizenship programme refines every student into a global citizen, by studying Arabic or French, for example, by tutoring immigrant children or going on field courses to East Africa.

Cecilia Diemont, LUC graduate who now serves as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company – one of the world’s leading management consulting firms – credits her time at LUC for giving her the skills to advise global leaders on their most critical issues and opportunities today.

“Working in teams with talented professionals from different backgrounds, presenting in front of groups and critically analysing problems are skills that LUC helped me develop,” says Diemont.

At The Hague, a cutting-edge education in security studies

From international terrorism to cybercrimes and natural disasters, security issues feature foremost in the global scene, demanding efforts from local, regional and international levels. To study and devise solutions to these issues at Leiden is to do so at the global hub known as The Hague; a convergence point of the most important figures and organisations involved in matters of international security.

Dr. Ruth Prins, Programme director and lecturer in Security Studies, describes the teaching approach for the programme as “innovative,” using various interactive teaching methods, including serious games, negotiation exercises, design projects and carrying out research projects.

Source: Leiden University

“With lecturers and students coming from all parts of the world, this programme is a good preparation for the international environment in which many of our students will be working once they have graduated. Security Studies is the ideal programme for students who want to study current security issues from an analytical perspective and develop strategic solutions to resolve these issues,” says Prins.

Interdisciplinary thinking starts from the get-go in this English-taught, three-year programme. In the first year alone, students must analyse cases like the Syria conflict and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, reviewing these events through the lens of various academic disciplines.

“You’re looking at different disciplines. So eventually you’ll understand the entire issue from all points of view,” says Nana Salim, student ambassador for the Class of 2020.

In their second year, students study strategies to protect society’s vital interests and ensure stability, welfare and prosperity. Vital interests are about identification, priorisation and decision making in contemporary society. As part of this process, you will study three security and safety challenges: Terrorism & Counterterrorism, Cyber Threats & Risk Management and War & Peace Building.

In their third year, students are not only given an elective space to qualify for a specialised master’s programme or prepare for the labour market, they can also choose to deepen their knowledge through the minors and electives offered by the FGGA and other faculties. There’s also the chance to intern at one of many security organisations or to broaden your horizons and improve your cross-cultural skills by registering for a minor at another university in the Netherlands or through study abroad.

In the final part of the programme, students further develop their research skills and methods.

Active, interdisciplinary teaching

“I like the fact that the link with the work field in this study is very big,” says Daphne Bolhuis, a first-year student at Leiden.

Source: Leiden University

“In the lectures, a lot of guest speakers tell about their experiences: from the AIVD, to a researcher on the MH17 disaster and someone from the ‘National Coordinator Terrorisme en Veiligheid’. The city of The Hague is also very suitable for that because many organizations are located here. We study in the middle of the city where everything takes place.”

Tutor Moniek Akerboom claims that active and interdisciplinary learning – such as debates, group assignments and serious games – contributes to a better understanding of this diverse field.

“The best part about teaching this course is the interaction between the students themselves,” she says.

Another tutor, Ramesh Premaratne Ganohariti, agrees:

“By combining academic knowledge from multiple disciplines, the Security Studies Programme takes a unique approach in analysing and proposing recommendations for contemporary safety and security challenges. All in all, if you are interested in becoming tomorrow’s safety and security expert, then this programme is for you.”

Find out more information about Leiden University here, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Instagram and LinkedIn

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