Human Security at Aarhus University is a two-year Master’s degree programme (120 ECTS). Through the programme’s courses, students gain a solid theoretical knowledge about various aspects of human security. In addition, they acquire practical skills to be used in their later careers. They are, for example, taught how to write a human security report and how to use the Logical Framework Approach to design a development project that addresses human security challenges. They also acquire skills in conflict mapping, and they receive training in practical conflict management, including mediation.

The teaching in the programme combines lectures, workshops, and various forms of group work assignments. Strong collaboration skills are essential for our students in their later careers, and thus we place great emphasis on group work. The programme prepares students for employment in various contexts, including national and international NGOs, governmental development organisations, UN organisations (e.g. UNHCR or UNDP), and development consultancies.

The Human Security programme is directed by the Department of Anthropology, located at the beautiful Moesgaard Campus, just next to Marselisborg forest and close to the ocean. All programme courses are held at Moesgaard Campus.
Moesgaard Museum
The new Moesgaard Museum is adjacent to the campus. It contains a large lecture hall and conference rooms, which we use in the programme.

Programme Structure

Study diagram

This study diagram illustrates the structure of the programme. Each semester is described below and additional information about the courses is found on our university website.

1st Semester

In the programme introduction week, students receive information about life at Moesgaard Campus, study practicalities, etc. The introduction week also includes a barbecue event where students and lecturers get a chance to meet each other in an informal setting. All students are assigned to a study group prior to the beginning of the courses and the programme coordinator has a continuous dialogue with the study groups in order to make sure that the group work is on track.

Core Concepts Contextualised (20 ECTS)

This course offers an introduction to key concepts and theories within human security. In the first part of the course, students familiarise themselves with theories of war, violence, and state sovereignty. They also learn about the history of security studies and engage critically with central debates in human security. The first part of the course ends with a security report exercise where each study group has to produce a human security report under the supervision of a case supervisor. In the second part of the course, various global human security challenges and opportunities are presented, analysed, and discussed through case examples. This part of the course deals with topics such as state fragility and twilight institutions, the security-development nexus, global economic flows, transnational environmental crime, and the global land-grab. In the autumn of 2017, the course was taught by Michael EilenbergChristian B. N. Gade, Christian Axboe NielsenAnders Sybrandt, Christian Vium, Mikael Gravers, and Kurt Mosgaard.

Tropical Ecosystem Management and Human Security (10 ECTS)

This course provides students with biological knowledge of the tropical ecosystems, acquaintance with case studies of eco-system management, and how these are influenced by local people and current and future climatic changes. In addition, the course focuses on project management methods in relation to the formulation of development projects on natural resource management of tropical ecosystems and human security. In the theoretical part of the course, the ecology of selected tropical ecosystems is introduced, which provides the basis for examples and discussion of natural resource management and climate change. The practical part of the course ensures an understanding of the project cycle terminology and addresses how to manage problems in tropical ecosystems. In this course, students have to write a term paper that uses the Logical Framework Approach to propose a project that addresses Human Security problems related to tropical ecosystems. In the autumn of 2017, the course was taught by Henrik Balslev and Henrik Borgtoft Pedersen.

2nd Semester

Prior to the beginning of the second semester, each student is assigned a supervisor who will be the student’s “mentor” throughout the remainder of the programme. In the second semester, the student and the supervisor will discuss the student’s interests and initial thesis ideas. Concurrently, students follow the courses outlined below.

Conflict Dynamics and Management (10 ECTS)

The first part of this course focusses on the dynamics of contemporary violent conflict. It aims to provide students with a multi-disciplinary and multi-level theoretical vocabulary on how and why (groups of) people resort to violent action against other combatants and how this can be brought to an end. This is done by looking at different theoretical tools but also with the help of some practical tools, such as conflict mapping. In the second part of the course, students are introduced to contemporary developments in transitional justice and peacebuilding. We discuss liberal peacebuilding, hybrid peace, and the local turn in peacebuilding. We also debate whether transitional justice mechanisms tend to represent a too narrow interpretation of violence and whether states manipulate the “spectacle” of the victim’s pain for political gains. The third part of the course constitutes a workshop on practical conflict management where students receive training in conflict mediation and practice exercises in conflict reaction patterns, conflict dimensions, conflict development, and communication. In the spring of 2018, the course is taught by Christian B.N. Gade, Christian Axboe Nielsen, Mikel Venhovens, Gonzalo Vargas, and Bjarne Friis Pedersen.

Agro-Ecology, Food Systems and Food Security (10 ECTS)

The course is a combination of a general background introduction to factors that affect agro-ecology, food systems, and food security. Students work on specified research-based issues related to the protection of crops and natural resources connected to specific projects in developing countries. The course consists of five sections: 1) General introduction to agricultural systems and food produce systems; 2) Introduction to specific crop protection issues, including the use of computer-based decision support systems; 3) Assessment and analysis of agricultural systems and natural resource management in relation to food produce systems and food produce security; 4) Access to food produce for landless households and vulnerable groups; 5) Final project. The course provides students with skills within agronomy and biology in relation to food security, one of the elements of Human Security. In the spring of 2018, the course is taught by Jørgen Aagaard Axelsen and Mette Vaarst.

Research Methods (10 ECTS)

In this course, students learn about relevant research methods and how to collect and analyse their own empirical data. The course consists of two integrated processes: 1) Class teaching with exercises, leading to development of a project description; 2) Supervision, which centers around students’ individual projects. Thus, due to the focus on individual project development, each student will have a dialogue with his/her supervisor in line with the methods course. The course covers the development of research problems and project descriptions, qualitative and quantitative methods, i.e. sampling, statistical analysis, participant observation, interviews, and other qualitative methods and analytical strategies. The course provides students with the necessary skills to plan and carry out a human security project during their work placement in the third semester. In the spring of 2018, the course is taught by Heather Anne Swanson and Theresa Ammann.

3rd Semester

Almost all human security students do a work placement from 3-5 months in the third semester, but it is also possible to follow profile courses instead. The aim of the work placement is for students to gain practical experiences about how to apply a human security approach in relation to a specific project carried out in partnership with an institution, organisation, or cooperation. During their work placement, the student is expected to contribute towards specific and limited knowledge needs in the field of human security, which are the student agrees upon in dialogue with the organisation and their supervisor. In addition, the student must conduct an independent study in accordance with the project description developed during the second semester. Furthermore, an online course element prepares the student for the writing of their Master’s thesis. The work placement provides the student with skills in the application of relevant methods and techniques for the collection and analysis of data in relation to relevant Human Security issues and allows the student to generate a dataset that they can use in their thesis process. The human security students from the 2017 cohort are supervised by the following lecturers: Christian Axboe Nielsen, Christian B.N. Gade, Heather Swanson, Jørgen Aagaard Axelsen, Lotte Meinert, Martijn van Beek, Michael Eilenberg, Morten Nielsen, Nina Holm Vohnsen, and Noa Vaisman.

4th Semester

All students have to write a thesis in the fourth semester. The thesis aims to provide students with the opportunity to conduct a detailed analysis of a topic within human security based on published work or data collected during the work placement/methodology course. Based on supervision, students gain in-depth knowledge of the human security literature in general and particularly their chosen topic. The thesis provides students with an opportunity to engage with thorough analysis, discussion of relevant theories, issues and debates within human security. In the thesis process, students combine the theoretical, analytical, methodological, and empirical outcomes of the programme’s first three semesters in a single project.