Greater terror in extreme vision 1

September 30, 2005

Anthony Glees's article "Beacons of truth or crucibles of terror?" (September 23) suggested that as some terrorists had attended UK universities and as there are also some offensive student organisations, universities hosting any of these are breeding grounds for extremism - and by extension there must be something inherently wrong with university life.

In their related report, Glees and his MA student co-author make some alarming suggestions, including having police on campus, banning faith societies and limiting recruitment to "ensure that the ethnic composition of any single university reflects, broadly, the ethnic mix of the UK as a whole". But if universities in cities such as London, with a large ethnic minority population, restrict access in this way it would wreck minority communities' opportunities - and wreck efforts to maintain campus harmony or a united response to terrorism.

I hope that informed professionals will analyse this inflammatory report as if it had been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Its theme is too important to escape such scrutiny.

Natfhe takes campus extremism seriously, and we are naturally disturbed by the recent London bombs and by any prospect of recruitment of potential perpetrators of such acts. To defeat terrorism, we need to look afresh at many aspects of our society, but in a measured way that balances evidence, analysis and ideas.

Academics must enter this debate before the higher education system is corrupted by the rush for simplistic solutions. Ministers should refrain from knee-jerk ideas for ominous campus controls.

Glees says: "In the war on terror, openness is not always a virtue and secrecy is not always a vice." Given the contribution that lies and secrecy made to recent foreign policy blunders and related violence, it may be time for more openness, not less.

Roger Kline, head of universities department, Natfhe

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