20 years ago

March 27, 2008

Speaking in a House of Lords debate on the security services, Lord Annan, former vice-chancellor of London University and an intelligence officer in the Second World War, drew attention to the problems of recruiting spies from universities. "The best way to recruit is through dons who have the interests of the services at heart. Sir John Masterman may have behaved like a character out of John Buchan, but as a student of Christ Church he had a very keen nose for the kind of man whom the services needed. Of course things are much more difficult nowadays," Lord Annan said. "There are far too many students for dons to know them individually as they used to, and few dons are bachelors. But I think every vice-chancellor has a duty to the state to advise the Home Office of members of his academic staff who can help."

Stressed university administrators who recently attended a conference called "Breaking Point" were treated to advice on a "practical relaxation technique", which involves a daily dose of "modulated breathing". The delegates were advised that for best effect they should take the phone off the hook during these sessions and post a member of staff outside the door to ward off persistent students and professors. "If I had enough staff to spare for such a task, I wouldn't be stressed in the first place!" one clearly unimpressed administrator noted.

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