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Major Dilemmas in Counterterrorism

Key information

Subject area:

Public Policy, Politics & Security

Course type:

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Credit level:

Not for credit


5 hours (self-paced)

Available course dates:

To be confirmed

Course overview

More than twenty years since 9/11, terrorist-related threats remain alive. Understanding counterterrorism and its dilemmas is therefore paramount. What is terrorism? What causes it? Who is a terrorist? Most importantly, how do we respond?  How much force shall we apply? Can we legally carry out targeted assassinations in countries we are not at war with? Can we afford true intelligence sharing? How should the media cover acts of terrorism? What are the possible measures liberal democracies should undertake? After all these years, are we winning the “War on Terror”? 

The aims of this course are to:

  • Provide students with a broad understanding of major dilemmas in countering terrorism. As some students may hold significant tactical experience, analysing theoretical and practical challenges will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of aspects of international security;
  • Enable students to appreciate complexity. Terrorism and counterterrorism are sensitive topics. While students are encouraged to mature their own views, this course provides them with a broad understanding of the many challenges all actors – such as policymakers, academics, law enforcement, community leaders, the military, and the public – regularly face. By doing so, students will value the kind of tortuous dynamics intrinsic to counterterrorism;
  • Encourage students to challenge common wisdom and think as critically and holistically as possible by putting themselves in ‘other people’s shoes’. The intent is not just to allow students to understand how different actors, in different situations, under multiple restraints and challenges, think and act. The overall exercise is for students to exit their ‘comfort zones’ and think as if they were other actors – encouraging ‘thinking outside the box’ in a critical manner.

This is a self-paced online course where students can access and work through the material at their own convenience.

What does this course cover?

The course is divided into five units featuring short videos, graphs, case studies, self-reflecting activities and self-assessment exercises.

Unit 1 starts by exploring definitions, theoretical frameworks, and mechanisms linked to terrorism, touching upon initial conceptual and practical counterterrorist dilemmas.

Unit 2 explores one of the most pressing debates in terrorism and counterterrorism, which is what really causes terrorism?

Unit 3 focuses on central legal aspects of counterterrorism, highlighting grey zones in the “War on Terror” (e.g. the killing of Al-Awlaki and Qasem Suleimani), as well as the kind of systematic tension that arises between the need for security and the quest for basic civil rights (e.g. security vs. matters such as racial profiling, discrimination, and other ethical issues).

Unit 4 is dedicated to state-sponsored terrorism and intelligence gathering and sharing in counterterrorism.

Unit 5 concludes the course with a discussion on what makes an “effective” counterterrorism strategy – what are the parameters and why is it so hard to craft “good” counterterrorism measures? 

What will I achieve?

Knowledge and Understanding:

  • Critically analyse major dilemmas surrounding definitions, theories, and models of terrorism
  • Engage with diverse conceptual, legal, strategic, societal, and ethical dilemmas embedded in counterterrorism
  • Reflect and evaluate major challenges in crafting “effective” counterterrorism policies

Intellectual Skills:

  • Critically engage with a wide body of literature and concepts
  • Develop informed and critical judgement
  • Manage the individual learning process

Practical Skills:

  • Identify and explain reasoned solutions to conceptual problems
  • Gather, organise, evaluate and interpret information from a variety of sources
  • Study independently and understand concepts, theories and methods in a reflective manner

Who will I learn with?

Michele Groppi

Michele Groppi

Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department

Who is this for?

This course would be relevant to those working in the intelligence and security sector. No prior knowledge is required, so anyone who wishes to explore issues in terrorism, counterterrorism, radicalisation, and extremism – as such, social workers, educators, religious leaders, journalists, diplomats, and students of international relations and political science - would also benefit from this course.

All learning will be delivered in English, therefore we recommend minimum IELTS Level 6 for learners to get the most from the spoken and written content.

Course status:

Opening soon

Full fee £450

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