Combining different disciplines, Leiden University researchers work together to formulate innovative solutions to societal problems. Below is an example from the field of law, politics and administration.

Overview Research in the spotlight

Probing complex problems

Governance solutions for global challenges

Issues such as climate change, the depletion of natural resources or social inequality are too complex to be addressed from a single scientific discipline or by a single country. Leiden University has the expertise to bring the resolution of these enormous problems a small step closer.

Cause and solution

Some phenomena cannot be studied in isolation. They are linked within a chain of cause and effect that spans the whole world. As an example, environmental pollution leads to climate change that causes the worst drought in southern Africa in 112 years. Harvests fail and cattle die of starvation; society becomes disrupted. All this leads to a massive wave of migration. The arrival of refugees fuels simmering discontent in European countries and creates a political earthquake.  It takes a very diverse body of knowledge to be able to reverse these kinds of developments, knowledge ranging from chemistry, biology and environmental sciences to anthropology, political science and public administration. What constitutes responsible nutrition that will keep people healthy without overburdening the planet? Which environmental problems should we tackle first? How can we provide a factual basis for the debate on employment migration? What new forms of international discussion are most effective? How can we share knowledge fairly? Leiden University brings together a diverse raft of scientific expertise to find answers to these questions. What makes Leiden uniquely placed to achieve this is the centuries-old Leiden tradition of studying distant countries, languages and cultures, in particular China, Africa, the Arab world and the Middle East. Leiden is an international hub of knowledge and contacts. 


Leiden University in The Hague

Besides Leiden’s international focus, there is also a local dimension. Much of the University’s research on global problems takes place in The Hague, in the heart of the ‘international city of peace and justice’.  With its International Criminal Court and its International Court of Justice,  ministries, multinationals, embassies and numerous international conferences, The Hague is an ideal breeding ground for research and teaching on such issues as security and threat, as well as other global challenges.  Judi Mesman, Dean of Leiden University College The Hague, and her academic staff are frequent discussion partners for diplomats, international lawyers and industrialists. Mesman is convinced that academic research relevant to current policy can only be truly effective if every step is discussed thoroughly with experts from the field of practice. ‘That increases the likelihood of scientific insights actually being applied,’ in her opinion. ‘And in the course of our research, we are also educating the problem resolvers of the future, young people who take the world’s problems to heart and who will shortly also have the instruments at their disposal to be able to do something about them.’