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Unit information: Theoretical Approaches in Security Studies in 2015/16

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Unit name Theoretical Approaches in Security Studies
Unit code POLIM3036
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Van Veeren
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides students with an understanding of international security by means of a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches. The unit defines international security to include threats to groups as well as nations, to the biosphere as well as the polity, and from military to political, economic and environmental security. The unit therefore provides an introduction and overview to key theoretical, historical and policy issues in international security debates. It goes on to analyse how security has traditionally been treated by different academic and policy communities during the cold war, and examines the changing nature of security in a post Cold War context. It therefore provides a theoretical and conceptual foundation for the MSc in International Security.


This unit aims to provide students with a theoretical and empirical understanding of security issues and debates. The principal aim of the unit is to equip students to understand and analyse security challenges from different theoretical perspectives and assess the core assumptions as well as advantages and disadvantages of these approaches The unit will therefore develop the student’s interest in and knowledge and understanding of the role of security actors at the international, national and sub-national levels; theories of how ‘new’ security challenges emerge and are advanced or dismissed and why; and theories of international relations in which security debates are located.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit students will:

  • acquire knowledge of security issues at the international, national and sub-national levels;
  • be able to understand and critically evaluate key debates in international security.
  • understand how ‘new’ security challenges emerge and are advanced or dismissed and why.
  • be able to apply knowledge to ‘key issues’ in international security.
  • be able to use knowledge acquired in the unit as a foundation for optional units in the MSc programme

Teaching Information

Ten seminars of two hours each in the unit. Students welcome to see unit owner during weekly office hour to discuss advice on presentations and essays.

Assessment Information

The final grade for the course will be based on the following:

Final Paper (3,500 – 4,000 words in length) 100% of mark

Reading and References

  • Buzan, B., Waever, Ole and de Wilde, Jaap. Security: A New Framework for Analysis, London: Lynne Rienner, 1998.
  • Collins, A. (ed) Contemporary Security Studies, Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Buzan, B., People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, 2nd ed. London, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991.
  • Keith Krause and Michael Williams (eds.), Critical Security Studies. Concepts and Cases (Routledge, 1997),
  • Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Globalised Era, Cambridge: Polity, 1999.