A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

The Intelligence Studies Minor

Do you want to broaden your academic horizon and enrich your study experience? Then taking a minor might be perfect for you! Leiden University offers over 50 different minors, all consisting of 15 to 30 credits. For some more general information, click here:

The minor Intelligence Studies is really popular among BSc Security Studies students, but you don’t need to have any background knowledge to join. It’s all about spies, secret services, terrorism, intelligence gathering and security. Sounds good, right?


Introductions to Secret Affairs: This is your classic intro course – you’ll learn about the history of the field, its methodology and new important vocab. Seriously though, the intelligence community has its own secret language (or have you heard of Sigint and Imint before?).

Photo by Renato Abati on

Secret Affairs 2: Ever wondered where on which roof to put snipers? Then this is for you. In this surprisingly hands-on course you will get to do your own chokepoint analysis, and pretend you’re already working for a secret service. In this fun assignment, you’ll devise the safest travel routes for a foreign delegation. To gather your intel, you research their hotels, expected traffic and possible surrounding ambush points. And, as promised, you even get to place your own counter snipers.

Intelligence Failures: I absolutely love this title, because it makes me think of people walking into poles and pulling on doors labeled push. In real life, intelligence failures are much more dramatic. Successful intelligence operations often remain secret, it’s the failures that make (often tragic) history. So if you want to know what led to the Cuban Missile Crisis or the attack on Pearl Harbour, this is the right course for you. You’ll get a front-row seat to the secret chess games of history.

Qualitative Analysis Techniques for Intelligence Studies: A big part of national security relies on risk analysis. Subsequently, it’s extremely important to get all those estimates and probabilities right, or the country might face a tragedy. But that’s not all. No other discipline faces that many uncertain factors, such as unreliable data (deception might be involved!) and missing data. Therefore, this course was tailored specifically to the needs of the intelligence community.

Photograph by Laura Cirigliano

Counter-Intelligence and Cold War Superpowers: Every good spy story has one thing in common: Double agents. While this form of counterintelligence might not involve 007, you’ll get to know the Cambridge Five, five Cambridge graduates that were recruited by the KGB and then infiltrated the British government. A classic form of Humint – Human intelligence.

Unrestricted Warfare: Offensive Intelligence and Cyberwarfare in the 21st Century: As most domains of our lives move online, it comes as no surprise that warfare followed suit. Cyberspace is one of the most active battlegrounds – intelligence agencies all around the world are engaging in offensive hacking, in order to disrupt, sabotage or even eliminate their enemies. Everyone who’s using social media platforms should have a look into that.

The Gatekeepers – Secret Services in the Democratic Legal Order: We’ve all seen a cop movie in which the protagonist goes against the rules and searches a house without a warrant – and we were cheering them on, the damn paperwork was taking to long! In reality, this is much more complicated. Searching someone’s house or tapping a phone goes explicitly against personal rights in most western countries. Can national security and legal ethics even be combined? Or are they natural enemies? You’ll find out in this course.


The Intelligence Studies minor combines international relations, history and, well, intelligence. Most of the assignments are hands-on, which is a lot of fun and helps to retain the content of the class. In my experience, the reading material really varied. Some papers were as easy and engaging as a spy novel, others rather dry and difficult to finish. The lectures were really good, even though a lot of the guest lectures had to be canceled because of Covid. Overall, it is a really interesting minor, especially if you are a history nerd like myself, and I definitely recommend it!

Let me know if you have any questions!

3 comments on “The Intelligence Studies Minor

  1. safia
    October 21, 2020

    good sharing

  2. Lucia Alonso Arenaza
    August 15, 2021

    Hey, thanks for the information, it’s really interesting! I’m doing the minor this year and I was wondering if in your opinion it is better to choose 4 courses in the first quarter and 2 in the second or to balance them out to be 3 courses in both quarters? I like all the courses and I’m having some trouble choosing between them 🙂

    • Laura Cirigliano
      August 17, 2021

      Hey! I always prefer to balance the workload, so 3 and 3 sounds good to me. You can also look at the workload and types of examination, to balance classes:)

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2020 by in Laura, My programme, Study and tagged , , , , , , .

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