Leiden University: Building the next generation of security strategists 
Source: Leiden University

The 21st century brings along a myriad of challenges. Chief among them: Safety and Security.

Be it cybercrime, international terrorism, natural disasters and civil unrest, organisations and governments are hungry for security experts who can keep their safety and security strategies updated in this increasingly complex landscape.

Add to that a world grappling with increasing occurrences of infectious diseases leading to major world crises, and the need for security experts has never been greater. From outbreaks of yesteryear such as SARS to Ebola, the world is in need of experts who can strategise smartly and efficiently in response to these global issues.

Aptly capturing today’s rapidly evolving safety and security demands is one of the Netherland’s top institutions – Leiden University (LU).

LU has gained a reputation as a bastion of academic excellence – built up over four centuries – that serves as a platform where students enjoy an enriching experience of living and learning among a diverse, international community.

Its location at The Hague means students are surrounded by international and EU organisations, including the International Organisation for Migration, and high-level courts such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice, NATO agencies as well as the United Nations High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR).

These provide learning, internship and career opportunities to students interested in fields such as migration, politics, international justice, EU governance, (sustainable) development, art and literature, to name a few.

This environment also offers prospective international students a platform to discover cultures and discuss key issues in our world today, be it climate change to justice and human rights as well as diversity and development.

Stepping stones to a great career

Prospective international students who are keen on carving themselves a career in this field should consider LU’s BSc Security Studies, offered under the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs (FGGA).

The programme ensures students develop an understanding of safety and security challenges by focusing on the political, historical and societal context in which they arise, as well as the effect of governance, institutions, and the media. Students will gain an academic perspective, and be able to think critically about complex issues while taking all relevant factors of specific safety and security challenges into account.

Source: Leiden University

The curriculum is research-led and practice-oriented, while students also learn from leading academic and security professionals to ensure they develop a relevant framework of the subject that gears them for career success.

Second-year student Chiara Barbeschi said the programme is interdisciplinary in nature, fusing disciplines such as criminology, economics, law, politics, psychology and history.

The 19-year-old Italian national described the programme as neither overly broad nor overly specific, adding that she had also gained numerous skills such as public speaking and shaping arguments.

Dutch national Vinnie Fokkens opined that no other institution focused on security and safety like LU’s programme. “I tried looking for a similar programme in Europe but did not succeed in finding a better option than my current study,” said the 18-year-old.

The programme enabled him to apply theories into real-life cases while fusing his interest in war and terrorism across the modules.

A DNA for success

There are countless career opportunities for graduates of the BSc Security Studies programme.

Willem Verdaasdonk, a Senior Security Studies lecturer, said: “While we train our students to become academics, we also realise that most will not pursue a career in academia and prepare them for a career outside of it.

“Therefore, some of the soft skills we teach [are] basic presentation skills, large and small group work, debate and discussions, bringing in knowledge from the private and public sector, as well as practice-oriented tasks and assignments.”

It’s unique location at The Hague means students can’t replicate this experience elsewhere.

“Besides The Hague (where the course is located) being the city of peace and justice, we have awesome and motivated teaching staff, all with different fields of expertise ranging from cyber security to terrorism and engineering, all of whom want to share their knowledge with students at one of the few universities in the world that teaches this programme.”

The Leiden advantage

You have exceptional freedom to tailor your studies to your goals in year three, enabling you to qualify for a specialised master’s programme, or to prepare for entering the labour market.

Source: Leiden University

You have the opportunity to study abroad or do an internship, or you can choose to deepen your knowledge and skills via a minor or elective from FGGA or another Leiden faculty; or you can take your minor at another university in the Netherlands or abroad.

One of the minors offered by FGGA is the Minor Global Affairs. This minor is built on two pillars of International Relations: International Security and International Political Economy, and aims to provide students with the tools and knowledge to understand the most important global trends and challenges.

Amongst FGGA’s esteemed faculty is Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, former Secretary General of NATO and Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is one of the professors of this Minor.

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