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POSTED ON 01/01/07

The hottest postsecondary field? Intelligence

Demand is so high, universities simply cannot keep up

OTTAWA -- Academic specialists in security and intelligence studies say their courses have never been so popular, but Canada's universities have been unable to get the faculty and other resources to meet the demand.

Wesley Wark, who teaches one of the country's largest undergraduate courses in intelligence history, at the University of Toronto, says that if he could clone himself, he would have no trouble doubling course enrolment to 600 students.

Gavin Cameron, a political scientist who specializes in intelligence studies at the University of Calgary, says there's a scramble to get into these courses. At the graduate level, there are more aspiring young scholars than faculty advisers can handle.

Martin Rudner, the founding director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University, says he's overwhelmed with research proposals from the federal government and institutions in the United States and Europe. But he can't hire the postgraduate research associates needed to take on these jobs and help teach the undergrads.

Money is so tight that Dr. Rudner fears Carleton may not be able to hire his replacement when he retires this summer.

Once considered an arcane branch of Cold War-era political science, security and intelligence studies now attracts interest from historians, sociologists -- even engineers trying to design structures that might become terrorist targets. At least 10 Canadian universities offer courses dealing with security and intelligence issues.

The Canadian Association of Security Intelligence Studies, founded in 1989, just a few months before the Berlin Wall was ripped down, used to hold meetings in small classrooms. Its last two annual conferences have been three-day sellout events taking over entire hotels in Montreal and Ottawa.

October's conference in Ottawa drew 550 participants from across the country, the United States, Australia and Europe, and organizers had to turn away others wanting to attend. The top-drawer speakers list included Jim Judd, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief whose concerns about al-Qaeda went unheeded; and Sir Richard Dearlove, the former chief of Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service, James Bond's outfit.

But the roaring success of CASIS conferences are part of a paradox, says Dr. Cameron, the association's current president. Despite the obvious popularity of the topics, academic institutions are simply not hiring the younger faculty needed to sustain programs in security intelligence studies.

The laws of supply and demand are sometimes seen to work in reverse on campus, Dr. Wark says -- "The popularity of courses creates angst among colleagues."

Other academics sometimes fail to see the relevance of research in this area, he added.

Thus the rich history of Canadian intelligence is not being properly researched, written and published, except occasionally by journalists, who discover tidbits such as the recently revealed fact that the RCMP kept an intelligence file on Tommy Douglas.

Dr. Rudner said some important research topics, such as the dynamics of Canadian homegrown terrorism, aren't being addressed.

The U.S. government's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks resulted in the allocation of billions of dollars for intelligence and security agencies. The spillover is felt at American colleges and universities that have been able to start new courses and programs. The Department of Homeland Security finances faculty positions at "centres of excellence" at six universities and 23 partner universities.

Ottawa has also allocated considerable sums for security in recent years, but academics in Canada say they aren't seeing the same kind of benefit as their American colleagues.

Dr. Rudner says CSIS and other federal intelligence organizations support the idea of academic research. But although academics can get research contracts from Ottawa, federal rules don't allow the institutions to use the contract money to hire staff.

Moreover, federal funding agencies that have generously endowed faculty positions in other social sciences have steered away from this field. Not one of the more than 1,600 Canadian Research Chairs financed by Ottawa has been in security and intelligence studies.

Dr. Rudner says Canadian universities are losing a generation of talented scholars who end up doing postgraduate research and teaching at schools such as Cambridge in Britain and Georgetown University in the United States.

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