Safety and security risks ranging from cybersecurity to terrorism threats are alarming communities all around the globe. Technological advancements and changing circumstances make questions of security complex, and tackling these challenges requires a nuanced approach. The Leiden-Delft minor ‘Security, Safety and Justice’ enables students to approach security-related topics from a multidisciplinary perspective and to gain a broad understanding of important current security issues.
Floor Stoelinga, a recent graduate of International Relations and Organisations at Leiden University who chose the minor Security, Safety and Justice: ‘My keen interest in global security issues led to my taking this minor. The minor allows you to understand news headlines from a more nuanced and analytical perspective.’
‘With a background in political science, many of the topics covered in the minor (such as technological developments and risk analysis) were new to me. Interacting with people from different educational backgrounds allowed me to develop a new way of thinking; it elevates your analytical capabilities.
During the minor we worked with fellow students from different academic backgrounds, which can be quite challenging but is simultaneously useful because it reflects the differences within society at large.’
When new technologies are developed, like self-driving cars, a whole set of challenges such as data protection and privacy arise.'
‘Personally, I found concerns regarding ethics and justice very interesting, such as thinking about the future challenges that follow from technological advancements like self-driving cars. When new technologies are developed, a whole set of challenges, such as data protection and privacy, arise.
I developed a keen interest in policy-making and ethics around intelligence. We have to make choices around what can and cannot be allowed in efficient security policy, for example targeted data collection. In the pursuit of security, many means are justified; they do not, however, necessarily comply with the principles of democratic decision-making, and can be ethically conflicting.’
Alves Marinov, a student of Computer Science at TU Delft, notes that the minor Safety, Security and Justice has the potential to broaden one’s horizons. ‘The minor is full of valuable insights and experiences. The mix of Leiden and Delft gives both sides the opportunity to learn from each other.’
‘My own bachelor programme, Computer Science, is a very exact field involving a quite straightforward way of thinking. In the minor, we learn how there are multiple paths to problem-solving, and how divergent thinking may lead to useful outcomes.
The minor employs various different theories, rather than the more hands-on approach I was used to in my bachelor programme. The approach in the minor allows you to go into research in more depth and to analyse topics from different sides. The mix of courses leads you to discuss and debate the complexity of real-world situations, which taught me the need for different approaches to and dimensions of an issue.’
The next ten years
For Alves, the procedures and consequences of safety and security policy are important subjects to deliberate as we move toward the future. ‘Analysing a security concern involves a great deal of information, which makes it difficult. Anticipating the need for safety and security regulations can be complicated. For example, major incidents like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one of the largest environmental disasters in history, occurred while appropriate measures could have prevented it.'
'It is interesting how sometimes safety or security regulations are only put into place or improved when there has been an incident to trigger the need for them. This could be an important topic for the future, and more attention needs to be paid to improving safety and security regulations in order to prevent disasters.’
More attention needs to be spent to improving security regulations in order to prevent disasters.’
Greater need for data protection
Increasing digitalisation is creating a changing world. Floor believes there is a lot to be achieved in the cyber domain. ‘As we look at the world now, with the growing role of data and technology, there is a greater need for data protection. Technological advancements are happening at a fast pace, without proper time taken for consideration of their implications.'
'The unexplored grey area leaves potential for safety and security risks. In scenarios where there is sudden digitalisation, such as in elections, hybrid risks may occur. It is important for us to consider and reconsider how we can use technology to our advantage while protecting our constituents from cyber attacks.’
The minor’s interdisciplinary design taught me that the various fields are deeply interconnected'
‘After taking this minor, I was left with a lot to think about and was incentivised to pursue a career that combines international relations and security. The minor’s interdisciplinary design taught me that the various fields are deeply interconnected, and I could build on my academic interests.’ Floor currently works at the NATO Defense College as a Volunteer in Education and Research and Outreach assistant, where she can apply research techniques learned in the minor, such as risk analysis. ‘There is a lot to do in the domain of security and safety.’
Text: Shivaani Harmsen