Universiteit Leiden

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The wide spectrum of research at Leiden

To give a better idea of the research at Leiden University, a new website has been launched that lists the University’s institutes together with the disciplines that they cover. But the institutes also work together intensively.

With the exception of the Faculty of Medicine, the seven faculties at Leiden University have organised their research into institutes. The number of institutes per faculty varies greatly. The Faculty and Institute of Archaeology are one and the same, whereas the Faculty of Science has no fewer than eight institutes. There are an additional two interfaculty institutes: ICLON (teacher training and research) and the African Studies Centre Leiden (Social and Behavioural Sciences and Humanities). Together the institutes illustrate the wide spectrum of research – and teaching – at Leiden.

Disciplinary and interdisciplinary institutes

Some institutes correspond with a particular discipline: philosophy, physics, political science or linguistics. But other institutes encompass several disciplines within a particular thematic strand: for example, the Leiden Institute of Area Studies, the Institute of Security Studies and Global Affairs and University College The Hague, which focuses on global challenges. The breadth of the research at the Faculty of Medicine almost makes it a university in itself. It has a different organisation from the other faculties, comprising divisions that are divided again into departments.

Deep history

But even the institutes that do focus on a single discipline are considerably wider in scope than they may seem at a first glance. Anyone tempted to think that the Institute for History only studies Dutch history, will, on closer inspection, see the in-depth research into globalisation and global change, and important processes such as migration, colonialism, urbanisation and identity formation. Geographically this covers a huge area including Russia, Latin America, Asia, North America and Eastern Europe. And this history goes back a very long time. Or take Leiden Institute of Chemistry, where half of the researchers focus on a better molecular understanding of the biological processes that lead to diseases such as hereditary conditions and neurogenerative diseases, while the other half develop new materials and processes that are required for the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable alternatives.


These descriptions of the institutes give an impression of the depth of the research. For an idea of the breadth of the research and of how Leiden researchers work together on interdisciplinary challenges, see the research dossiers. There are five research areas that bring together research from all corners of the University: Health and Wellbeing, for example. Here you will obviously find doctors, but you will also find experts in psychology (behaviour), education and child studies (what makes children thrive?) and political science (how can the government promote health?)

Research-driven teaching

The teaching at Leiden University is closely linked to the research, and students can follow classes on everything that we research. As new fields of science are explored, new programmes are developed: for example, in the field of security or healthy ageing. There are also multidisciplinary degree programmes such as the bachelor’s programme at Leiden University College The Hague and the International Studies and European Studies programmes. The wide spectrum of the research at Leiden is thus reflected in its degree programmes.

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