If you spent your adolescent years reading spy thrillers, wishing you could be part of the heady world of intelligence, all you might just need is a college degree. Soon, graduates of MA in National Security & Strategic Affairs — to be introduced in 2014 at the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies at the University of Madras — will be ready to hit the ground as professionals for security and intelligence agencies. While the finer details of the curriculum are yet to be worked out, university officials say students will be trained in the process of human intelligence as well as the technology behind modern espionage – satellite communication, surveillance techniques and deciphering information. Many government security, defence and intelligence agencies, particularly the DRDO, will be involved in the programme. 

But would that be enough to churn out dashing James Bonds, if not cold Smileys? Serving intelligence officers are not convinced that two years in a university classroom can teach the art and science of spooking.   

For instance, a senior State intelligence official feels the aptitude for ‘getting accurate information to forecast dangers’ is very important and most of it is learnt on the job.

“Intelligence is managing information and generating actionable, useful alerts from it. You either have the trait, or you don’t. Training does little,” he added. 

An associate professor at the university says the course will be like an MBA – being a spy is also a state of mind, he believes. “We won’t teach them how to spy. We will tell them why spying is important,” he says.

The university is one of ten chosen institutes that will execute the central government’s pet project of creating a cadre of trained professionals needed for national security, said an UGC official. 

The aim of these courses is also to attract youngsters to national security, Gopal Malviya, a city-based strategic affairs expert.