Amsterdam, Netherlands

Criminal Organizations: An Economic Perspective

when 14 July 2018 - 28 July 2018
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 3 EC
fee EUR 1150

Popular TV shows like Narcos, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy and The Sopranos purport to portray the workings of organized crime, and their huge audiences reveal our fascination with this hidden underworld. Likewise, news coverage of real-life scandals feeds our curiosity about the way criminality permeates government, society and the economy.
This course takes a fresh approach to the study of organized crime by viewing it through the prism of business and economics. For example, how do criminal organizations deal with competitors? Do they have a “brand”? How do they recruit new talent and innovate?

The syllabus is divided into four blocks.
•Terminology (definitions and concepts), types of organized crime and criminal organization, key distinctions between criminal and non-criminal organizations.
•Inside the criminal organization: structure, divisions, human resources, operations.
•Outside the organization: monopolies versus competitive markets, old versus new crimes, disruptive innovations, symbioses with legal economic activities.
•Enforcement: the link between organized crime and corruption, economic incentives to reduce organized crime, the costs, benefits and feasibility of prohibition versus legalization strategies.
•You also undertake an individual assignment tailored to your own interests. Someone involved in technology, for example, can explore how criminal organizations operate in the deep web or whether bitcoins facilitate cybercrime.

Learning about organized crime in Amsterdam is special in itself, as several of our topics have particular local relevance: mafia activity, the production and trafficking of ecstasy, money laundering and tax evasion. The course excursions allow you to observe and discuss these issues outside the classroom.

Course leader

Dr Juan P. Mendoza

Target group

Students and professionals from any background with an interest in organized crime and criminal organizations. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Course aim

At the end of this course, you:
•Can describe criminal organizations and organized crime from a business perspective.
•Are familiar with the basic terminology and theories describing the ways criminal organizations operate in practice.
•Can identify economic and business logic in observable organized crimes.
•Are able to question and evaluate the usefulness of incentives, both economic and non-economic, in regulating or deterring organized crime.

Credits info

3 EC
Contact: 45
If you want to earn more credits you can take courses in our other sessions to create a 4 or 6 week programme.

Fee info

EUR 1150: The tuition fee includes:
• Airport pick-up service
• Welcome goodie bag
• Orientation programme
• Course excursions
• On-site support
• Emergency assistance
• Transcript of records after completion of the course

An early bird discount of €150 is available for students who apply and pay before 15 March, and students from VU Amsterdam as well as from exchange partner universities will receive a €250 discount. You apply for the discount simply by indicating that you are currently a student at VU Amsterdam or at a partner university in the online application.

There are also discounts for students who attend multiple sessions, combine 2 courses and receive a €200 discount and combine 3 to receive a €300 discount. All courses include excursions. We will also organize trips and excursions as part of our social programme, which is a great way to get to know your fellow students and learn more about Amsterdam and the Netherlands. The social programme is not included in the tuition fee.

Furnished accommodation is available. Various housing options will be offered.


The VU Amsterdam Summer School offers ten scholarships that cover the full tuition and housing fees of one course. Information about how to apply for the scholarship will be posted on the VU Amsterdam Summer School website.

Register for this course
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