Campus extremism tackled by new website

A new website has been launched to help universities tackle violent extremism and radicalisation on campus.

May 21, 2013

Run by Universities UK, the new site provides information to help staff and students address issues such as protocols for vetting external speakers, how to engage with the community and police and how to promote inter-faith relations on campus.

It follows a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Homeland Security, published in April 2011, which said campus extremism was a “serious problem”.

The group said it had “grave concerns” that students were being radicalised on campus, adding that some academics did not cooperate with efforts to tackle the problem because they did not wish to be seen to be spying on students.

High-profile cases of former students involved in terrorist plots include Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is serving a life sentence for attempting to blow up a plane flying to the United States on Christmas Day in 2009.

The former University College London student was closely involved in its Islamic Society, but an inquiry by UCL found no evidence the so-called “underwear bomber” had been radicalised on campus.

The issue of campus extremism was also highlighted by the Boston Marathon bombings, with one of the main suspects - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – being a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

The website was launched today at a UUK conference in London.

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, welcomed the site, saying universities needed to balance the protection of the “core values of freedom of speech and academic inquiry” with their “duty to take seriously the risk associated with extremism at universities”.

“The launch of this website means universities, academics and students can share information and work together to make sure our campuses remain safe, vibrant and stimulating places,” he said.

UUK chief executive Nicola Dandridge, said: “Universities take their responsibilities in relation to the safety and security of their staff and students very seriously and have engaged extensively with the government’s ‘Prevent’ agenda and relevant authorities.

“The challenge for universities is ensuring they continue to be places where difficult subjects are debated, while making sure this is done safely and within the law.”

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