Contemporary Terrorism


GPM418 Contemporary Terrorism

A 16 point post-graduate subject delivered by the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security

Apply now


We offer this subject online, with an approximate workload of 15 – 20 hours per week.

We also offer an optional 5-day classroom-based intensive class in Canberra. The times and dates of these classes vary by session.

To find out more, please email

Jihadist terrorism is the most prominent subnational security threat of the twenty-first century. Jihadist terrorism catapulted to the international security agenda with Al Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and altered the terrorism landscape from that point. This subject will introduce you to the strategic and ideological foundations that motivate the Global Jihadist Movement. You will explore the terrorist franchise through branches, affiliates, and breakaways throughout the Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia. This leads you into a transnational threat analysis, focusing on contemporary groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Shabaab and Islamic State - all of whom have the power to inspire terrorist attacks in the West.


Upon successful completion of this subject, students should:

  • be able to apply advanced knowledge of jihadist drivers, enablers, and causes, when making threat assessments particular to the international terrorism environment
  • be able to critically evaluate jihadist ideas, concepts and theories, with reference to recent developments, in order to provide insight on contemporary and emerging threats
  • be able to adopt a range of research methods and information, such as open source or expert literature, to formulate theories and make assessments
  • be able to demonstrate professional objectivity, in order to inform professional practice
  • be able to clearly communicate complex knowledge regarding contemporary terrorism in order to influence specialist and non-specialist audiences

Indicative assessment

Upon successful completion of this subject, students should:

  • Key insights and Takeaways – 10%
  • Tactics and Targeting Intelligence Brief – 30%
  • Threat Evaluation – 60%


The set text for this course is:

Ryan, M.W.S. (2016). Decoding al Qaeda’s Strategy: The Deep Battle Against America, Columbia University Press.

Fishman, B. (2017). The Master Plan : ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory, Yale University Press.

Note that all of these texts offer something different and come at the subject from a different perspective, but all are by well-regarded experts in their field. Various chapters from these texts will readings within the subject, and will subsequently be made available electronically.

reading list extract

  • Cronin, A.K. (2002-2003). Behind the curve:
    Globalization and international terrorism. International
    Security, 27(3), pp. 30-58.
  • Ryan, M.W.S. (2013). ‘The Leadership Inspires a New Strategy’, Decoding Al-Qaeda’s Strategy: The Deep Battle against America. Columbia University Press, pp. 51-83.
  • Cook, D. (2015). ‘Radical Islam and Contemporary Jihad Theory’, in Understanding Jihad, University of California Press, pp. 93-28.
  • Conway, M., Gill, P., Corner, E. and Thornton. A. (2015). What Are the Roles of the Internet in Terrorism? - Measuring Online Behaviours of Convicted UK Terrorists. London: VOX-Pol.
  • Wood, G. (2017). ‘Madness and Methodology,’ in The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, New York, NY: Random House, pp. 43-87.

subject availability

academic year 2024

Online MODE