I spy with my little data gathering

November 1, 1996

If you have ever wondered how to assess and interpret huge quantities of intelligence information, Wilhelm Agrell is your man.

Starting in November, Mr Agrell will be running a course called "The Art of Guessing Correctly", based on the work of the intelligence services, at the University of Lund in Sweden. It is designed for undergraduates and journalists, stockbrokers, business leaders, and political scientists working with information and intelligence.

The course has three main sections: intelligence history (the growth of modern, organised intelligence gathering); intelligence sociology assessment (the problems of analysis associated with assessing the intelligence gathered); and causes of groundless assessments.

A peace researcher and public debater, Mr Agrell says there is no academic training or theory in information analysis. He aims to help students understand how intelligence-gathering functions and how to collect and handle information. The course will also cover business intelligence.

The course, the first of its type at a Nordic university, should be considered as an introduction to the problems of systematically analysing the large quantities of information gathered by intelligence services. "Such analysis is difficult, and even services with large resources, such as the CIA, get it wrong," he said.

Mr Agrell said: "Many people thought that the intelligence services became redundant when the cold war ended. But the truth is that international developments are more confusing today than they were ten years ago."

Expectations that the course would attract a great deal of interest were well founded. "Some 780 students have indicated they would like to attend," he added.

The course will be repeated in the spring semester, and Mr Agrell guesses that there will be two courses a year in the future. That is if he has assessed the gathered intelligence correctly.

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