Course 2018-2019 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
BIG (3 credits - II sem. - OBS  |  SPS/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Mission & Content Summary


A major field of international relations is concerned with international security: how it is maintained, how it is threatened, and the dynamics of violent conflict within and between states in world politics. This course provides a systematic introduction to major topics within this field, engages with the conceptual, theoretical and empirical questions involved, and examines the implications these have for security policy by both state and non-state actors. The course engages broadly with classic security concepts, issues and theories; contemporary developments, new threats, and future challenges. The mission of this course is to explore different facets of conflict and security challenges, we start focusing on core concepts such as security, war and terrorism and how we can measure and study them. A central aim is discussing, distinguishing and linking concepts, theories, operationalization and empirical analysis on conflict. We reach these goals analyzing core security challenges and new dimensions of conflict that are emerging in in the contemporary word. The course is based on both academic empirical works and critical discussion of policy reports.


The course focuses on international security and conflict in the contemporary world. The course is structured in 3 macro modules. The first focuses on concepts and different dimensions of conflict. The second on Contemporary Security Challenges and the third one on   Conflict and Security Management:

  1. Facets of Conflict:
    • Theories and Concepts of Security.
    • The Causes of Interstate War.
    • Civil Wars.
    • Terrorism
  2. Contemporary Security Challenges:
    • Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons.
    • Refugees, Displacement and Forced Migration.
    • Organised Crime and Conflict.
  3. Conflict and Security Management:
    • Conflict Prevention and Response.
    • Regional Security.
    • Aid and Conflict.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Distinguish the main dimensions of conflicts and related security issues.
  • Identify the core contemporary security challenges.
  • Find data sources to study patterns of conflict and political instability.
  • Elaborate differences in conflict management and resolution.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Use the theoretical and empirical insights presented during the course to assess the risk of conflict or instability under certain political and economic conditions.
  • Challenge theoretical statements about security using empirical evidence.
  • Critically assesses governmental and NGOs reports on security related issues.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Group assignments


  • Seminars are structured according to the standard format: the instructor presents and elaborate on the material contained in the required readings, which the students have read before class, so as to enhance in-class discussions and students’ participation.
  • Some lectures are held by professors/practitioners who are leading experts on the topic treated in the seminar. This allows students to learn additional insights from experts who have actively contributed to the scientific literature on a certain topic.
  • Attendance: some of the assigned readings feature a high degree of sophistication in terms of methods of analysis. Therefore, students’ attendance is strongly recommended. In fact, although no formal prerequisites are required, the lectures provide students some necessary (yet informal) background that helps them gain a better understanding of those readings that include a technical component. To qualify as an attending student and be allowed to take the mid-course essay, an attendance rate equal to or higher than 75% must be reported.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)


With the purpose of measuring the acquisition of the above-mentioned learning outcomes, the student assessment is based on two main components, a mid-course partial essay and a final written exam, each making up 50% of the final grad.

  • The final exam is based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions. Multiple choice questions are designed to test the students’ knowledge of the basic fundamental concepts and notions about different dimensions of conflict, causes of international and domestic wars and contemporary security challenges. Open-ended questions are aimed at evaluating the students’ ability to establish connections between findings reported in different readings and to use these connections to evaluate the prospects of peace and political stability. The final written exam focuses on the readings covered in the second part of the course, which mainly address questions about contemporary security challenges and conflict management/resolution.
  • The midcourse partial essay (4,000 words) focuses on the readings covered in the first part of the course, which mainly address core international phenomena about security and conflict.


Written general exam, (100% of the finale grade) based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions, which aims to assess the student’s ability to describe the main theoretical and empirical findings contained in the readings covered over the course.

Teaching materials


The required readings for this course are scientific articles, book chapters and policy reports that represent the key and/or state of the art contributions to the different topics analyzed. A complete list of the required and suggested reading is provided at the beginning of the course and is available on Bboard.

Last change 22/06/2018 08:40