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French college sets up school for spying

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Experts say France is playing catch-up with the UK and the US in forging strong links between the intelligence community and academia (stock photo)

Experts say France is playing catch-up with the UK and the US in forging strong links between the intelligence community and academia (stock photo)

Experts say France is playing catch-up with the UK and the US in forging strong links between the intelligence community and academia (stock photo)

A French university has created the country's first chair in "intelligence" and a master's degree in espionage.

The political sciences university of Aix-en-Provence will start with an intelligence certificate in September followed by its first master's degree next year. The course will be run by General Serge Cholley, who commanded France's operation against Isil.

"We want to make intelligence a subject that is no longer restricted [to spying] but academic," said Rostane Mehdi, head of Aix's institute of political studies. "We're putting in place a programme that is unprecedented in France and which meets a strong institutional demand."

Experts say France is playing catch-up with the UK and the US in forging strong links between the intelligence ­community and academia.

In 2018, the heads of France's six main intelligence agencies issued a plea for engineers, IT specialists, linguists and ­analysts to join their ranks.

In May, the technical director of the DGSE, France's directorate-general for external security, said that it was seeking to recruit "geeks" rather than budding James Bonds to adapt to the post-Covid world.

Too many young people "have the special forces in their heads", the agency's technical director Patrick Pailloux said. "They think 'I am not Rambo, I am a geek'. It does not occur to them to enter the DGSE. If you are supercharged in science, then you can also serve your country."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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