Reacting to alarming evidence that Britain's universities are becoming a recruiting ground for dangerous and life-threatening activity, the government has issued new instructions to academics to monitor and report student engagement in extremist sports.
Higher education minister Bill Trammell spelt out the problem in shocking detail yesterday, citing instances of students - many wearing ceremonial uniforms and headgear - climbing up or launching themselves off tall buildings and other structures, travelling at very high speed in flimsy transportation devices, descending into deep pools of water or holes in the earth, or skidding down mountainsides without even waiting for the snow to be cleared off them.
"Some of these students join organisations with innocent sounding names, like the Ski Club or the Sub Aqua Society," said Mr Trammell, addressing an envelope as part of the government's initiative to survive on campaign donations of less than £1,000. "But we know that they put lives at risk, and will seize any opportunity to engage in bizarre ritualistic behaviour, often travelling to distant parts of the world to carry out their appalling acts and display their prowess in front of those who share their misguided faith."
A spokesperson for the Department for Education, Skills, Training, Long Holidays, Squeakiy Lino Floors, Worn Plimsolls and Everything Else that Comes Out of Schools These Days pointed out that, while invisible and apparently conformist for long stretched of the academic year, extreme-sports students can suddenly rise up on mass, with potentially appalling consequences.
In several universities located near rivers, there is an annual spectacle of students putting on fancy dress and throwing themselves in the water, or attempting to propel a spear-shaped object across its surface at great speed. In many others, especially during the notorious Rag Week festival, out-of-control students can be observed engaging in such extreme activities as climbing the tower of the University Library with grappling hooks, abseiling down the Senate House walls, holding go-cart races round the campus or mud-wrestling on the vice-chancellor's lawn.
"These now all-too-regular instances show," continued Mr Trammell, "that extreme sports activities are no longer practised only in far-away places beyond the reach of civilisation, like Swiss mountain villages, the Himalayas or the Cairngorms. They are taking place here, in the very heart of our most revered seats and hotpants of learning."
The Universities and Colleges Union has reacted cautiously, but one concerned college lecturer admits he has already tried to apprehend a student whom he knew to be engaging in extremist sports activity. "He was going so fast, on his turbocharged quad bike, that I wasn't able to catch up with him, and had to leap out of the way when he performed a sudden backflip against the wall of the staff gymnasium," he said, asking for anonymity because his name is too complicated for anyone to spell correctly. "But I did manage to grab a few strands of his beard as he sped past. The problem is clearly growing."