PASSED/FAILED: Duncan Campbell

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Duncan Campbell, 42, is an investigative journalist who runs the independent television production company IPTV. His documentaries include the Secret Society series in which he exposed the Zircon satellite project. While working for Time Out magazine, he became the "C" in the "ABC" campaign that followed prosecution in an official secrets case. His latest book is On the Record.

Scottish Schools? Dundee High School was my first and only school. Both primary and secondary parts were on the same site, an absolutely absurd parody of a Grecian building which still dominates the city centre. It was mixed, selective and grant-aided; you paid pounds 20 a term. I got involved with a school magazine, which was alternative but not samizdat, and I can remember a duplicating machine and inky fingers. I played Rugby in the First 15; I quite enjoyed it until a match with the boys from Gordonstoun who were extremely violent and spoiled the fun. Then my ambition was to be in the Second 15.

Leader of the Pack? Most of the time I pottered around in the top echelons but not at the top of the class, until my last year when, like a sprinter in the final lap, I decided I was going to be top. I got three "S"-levels (the old Scottish equivalent to A-level) in Physics, Chemistry and Maths, and then an open scholarship to Oxford, which was not the normal target you shot at.

Brasenose Revisited? I found the English public-school class, which predominated at Oxford, to be alien and arrogant, giving the impression they owned everything. In terms of class, I was a bit off the scale. The lowest of the low in regional terms was the North of England. If you were Scottish or actually foreign, you didn't need to be ranked socially. I didn't like the racism, which was against Jewish people.

Making Media Waves? No. I had no gravitational pull to Isis or Cherwell; I slightly felt these were people out for themselves. I loathed the culture of the Oxford Union, which seemed to involve the worst and most self-seeking of a class I already found repugnant. It was some years afterwards before I could bring myself to speak there about official secrets and gay rights. It is quite ironical that, so far as I can recall, I must be possibly the most famous person in the media to have come out of that year.

Viva! As at school, I piddled around for two years at not quite the level expected of someone with an open scholarship. In my final year I got round to studying. I was Viva-ed for a First, which I got. This is one of the most intellectually testing things you can go through. There are occasions, such as live TV discussions, when intellectual dexterity counts for a lot; but in a Viva there is usually a right answer - and you're not sure if you've got it.

Master Stroke? I then did a one-year MSc at Sussex University in Operations Research, which included Pyschology, Economics, Accountancy and Model Building. It was extremely useful. It was not difficult to make the grades, though they'll hate me for saying so.

University Challenges? I gave the first James Cameron Memorial Lecture at Glasgow University and the first Kenneth Allsop Memorial Lecture at Edinburgh. Oddly enough, when James Cameron, for whom I have immense respect, was still alive, I was put up for the Rectorship of Aberdeen University, standing against a local estate agent - and James Cameron. For some reason, he had been put up by the Tories, which damaged him enormously, and the estate agent came down the middle and won.