Universiteit Leiden

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International Studies (BA)

About the programme

During this programme you gain deep knowledge of one of eight world regions by studying its politics, economy, history and culture, and a local language. You will gain the ability to view regional issues from a global perspective, preparing you to play a crucial role in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world.

Isabelle Duyvesteyn

Chair International Studies

Isabelle Duyvesteyn

"It is a privilege to act as Chair of BA International Studies. This is a vibrant, multi-dimensional, multi-layered Humanities programme that provides our students with clear pathways to follow as they make their way through the three-year curriculum. Our student body is diverse, active and engaged with the issues that are challenging us around the globe every day, and we are constantly assessing the programme’s structure and approach to ensure we adapt to changing trends and maintain its up-to-date relevance. Our academic and support staff are equally committed to maintaining the high standards and ensuring the care for detail that one would expect from a top university. We look forward to welcoming you here, and also to following your next steps as our graduates in the future!"

The programme offers a unique combination of theory and practice. In the first and second year, you will build on a strong foundation of knowledge about your region of choice, while you will also learn one of its key languages, such as Arabic, Spanish or Chinese. In your third year, our students have the opportunity to test and strengthen their knowledge and skills by participating in our hands-on PRINS consultancy course.

Study globalisation and regional developments

During the programme, you will focus on the world region of your choice, studying its politics, economics, history and culture, as well as one of its key languages. In this time of globalisation, it is particularly important to be able to place regional developments in a global context. At the same time, you will develop academic and practical skills and an intercultural outlook, qualities that are highly valued for future career paths.

Read more about the programme structure here.

Your specialisation: one of eight world regions

  • Africa
  • East Asia
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • North America
  • Russia and Eurasia
  • South Asia and South-East Asia

Wilder Marsh


Wilder Marsh

"I thought that the first semester of the first year was an easy transition into university life. It was nice to have some interdisciplinary courses to get settled in, and then chose your region in the second semester. I study Africa, and I could not be more excited about my choice. ‘Africa’ entails the entire continent, which is very culturally and linguistically diverse of course! Because of this, the teachers give us a lot of opportunities to research what we find most interesting ourselves. One of my favorite courses is my African History class, because the teacher has a kind of brightness to him that makes you want to learn."

Dr. Paula Jordão


Dr. Paula Jordão

"The tutorials are one of the most important components of the BA International Studies. In small groups of 12 to 15 students, it is in the tutorials that students put into practice what they learn in the lectures, under the guidance of a group of young international tutors who have already obtained their PhD or Master’s degree. Tutorials are interactive, lively and dynamic!"

Isabelle Duyvesteyn

Chair International Studies

Isabelle Duyvesteyn

"The BA International Studies programme is wide-ranging in scope, with our global-regional multi-disciplinary curriculum, combined with opportunities for practical experience via internships and Practicing International Studies (PRINS). It is also focused in approach, with our small-scale tutorial groups and support systems ensuring our students receive the attention they need. We are confident that these are the ingredients for a unique educational experience."

Study load

The International Studies programme involves a full working week of around 40 hours, with lecture and tutorial contact hours of around 14 hours and the rest spent on independent study.

Educational methods

The programme includes lectures and tutorials, as well as individual and group assignments. The lectures focus on particular topics, which are further elaborated upon in tutorials. The tutorials are one of the most important components of the BA International Studies. In small groups of 12 to 15 students, the issues dealt with in the lectures are studied in detail. The tutorials are led by a dedicated group of young international academics who represent the programme’s core staff. While developing essential academic skills, such as essay writing, debating, presenting, and providing and receiving feedback, students are challenged in their critical thinking. Our tutorials are interactive, lively and dynamic. 

Maud tells you everything about the International Studies programme

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Programme overview

In the first year of International Studies, all students engage in the same core courses on economics, history, culture and politics. Through the core courses, a clear shared base for further studies is established. Moreover, you will start to develop your academic skills: reading and thinking critically, writing and speaking clearly and concisely. In the second semester you start to specialise in the region of your choice through courses that focus on its history and culture; and begin your language training.

The first semester of the second year gives you the opportunity to deepen your knowledge of your chosen region. You will learn more about the region's economic and political situation, and gain a global perspective on cultural interaction. Language acquisition is an important part of the curriculum this year. You will continue to improve reading, writing and speaking skills in your chosen language. We offer several courses on research methods, of which you will select one. In the second semester the focus is on international relations and global political economy, and you will start applying your research skills in a thematic seminars based on one of the following key themes: 

  • International Order and Disorder 
  • Systems of Belief and Religion
  • Social Justice and Human Rights
  • Environment and Society
  • Technology and Society

In the first semester of the programme’s third year there is an elective space in which you can freely choose between an international exchange, an internship, or a university minor. The second semester is where you apply your practical and academic skills in the Practising International Studies (PRINS) course. As part of a team with fellow students, you will develop solutions for cases presented by such organisations as Unilever, Workplace Pride, UNESCO, the European Space Agency and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You will also complete your studies with a final 10,000-word thesis on a topic agreed upon by you and your supervisor.

Student support services

Do you need support during your study? We make sure to offer our students the support they need. Our student 263 and student psychologist are available for advice or practical help.

Should you have any questions about the programme, our study advisors are available to provide advice and help you make practical arrangements when needed. 

Apart from study advice, we offer many other support services. Our Career Services can help you arrange a study abroad or find an internship position. Should you need extra support due to a chronic illness, dyslexia or a physical or psychological disability, you can contact the university’s Fenestra Disability Centre.

The POPcorner is an accessible study support point with locations in Leiden and The Hague, focused on creating an inclusive and diverse learning environment. As well as organising POPtalks on D&I related topics, the POPcorner helps students develop study skills through workshops, create social and support networks, establish personal and academic goals, and connect them with university resources and services.

Mentor System

During the Introduction Days, you will be assigned to a mentor group, with a second-year or third-year International Studies student as your mentor. You will then follow all of your tutorials in the first semester together with the other members of your mentor group.

In your first year your mentor will provide you with practical information, such as how to register for exams. The mentor group will meet on a regular basis during the first year, to discuss issues such as study skills and time management, and to share practical information that will allow you to get the most out of your studies.

Disciplinary perspectives

International Studies is a multidisciplinary study programme, which means that you will use different disciplinary perspectives to analyse the world. These disciplinary perspectives of International Studies are culture & language, history, politics and economics and they are crucial for a well-rounded understanding of globalisation. Throughout the programme you will use them to examine both your region of choice and the world on a global level. At the end of the programme you will be able to combine your disciplinary and regional knowledge in an International Studies thesis. Depending on the choice of master’s programme, you could specialise further in one of the disciplines or the region of your choice. Our graduates have access to a wide range of Masters programmes across different disciplines and covering regional, international, or global affairs.

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