Undergraduate Modules

Contemporary Security Challenges

Wars, missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Terrorism, insurrection, political violence and lone-wolf attacks. AIDS, Ebola, hunger, starvation, poverty. Oil, water, land, and energy. Lines on a map, lines between states, lines between groups. The list is long and grows with every passing year as new threats emerge to endanger the life and livelihood of individuals, states and societies.

But with such a daunting list of threats, where does one begin. Should all be examined, and with equal weight? Should some come higher in our priority list than others? Who should we try to protect first and foremost? Is the state the most important actor when we think about security, as it offers the main means of protecting people and is the medium through which we all live our lives. But what happens when the state is the threat, when it oversteps the boundary and stops being a protective force in an individual’s life and starts being the source of the threat? And how do we balance the security needs of the few with that of the many? And who should we deal with these threats – states, international organisations, or do we leave it to NGOs to fill in the gaps?

On this module you will examine a series of key contemporary challenges to international security. The module addresses debates about the changing nature of security, analyses some of the causes of conflict and the development of new security threats, and assesses some of the ways in which states seek to manage these threats. A range of approaches are examined in order to provide you with a theoretically-informed but policy-relevant understanding of security-related issues in the twenty-first century.


Provisionally, the module will cover the following topics in 2016/17:

  1. Traditional Theories of Security
  2. The Critical Turn – Constructivism, Critical Security and Gender
  3. The Critical Turn Continues – The Paris School and Post Colonialism
  4. Terrorism and the State
  5. Health Security
  6. The Morality of War
  7. Intelligence and the Surveillance State
  8. Wartime Rape
  9. Drones and Drone Warfare
  10. Border Security
  11. Poverty and Security

First Year
Autumn Semester
Module Code POL230


  • 12 one-hour lectures
  • 12 one-hour seminars


  • One exam (50%)
  • One essay (50%)