University leaders call for exemption from anti-terror laws

Twenty-four university leaders have urged the government to exempt universities from the counter-terrorism bill or risk harming academic freedom

January 28, 2015

The group of vice-chancellors and chancellors write in a letter to The Times, published today, that the government “does not appear to have considered how the bill will relate to universities’ existing duties and codes of practice concerning freedom of speech and academic freedom”.

Signatories include Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics; Dame Julia Goodfellow, vice-chancellor of the University of Kent and president-elect of Universities UK; Anthony Forster, vice-chancellor of the University of Essex; and Shami Chakrabarti, Essex chancellor and director of Liberty.

The government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, being debated in the House of Lords this week, would give the home secretary the ultimate authority to take legal action to force universities to ban “extremist” speakers from campus if they consistently failed to tackle concerns.

The bill puts a duty on specified public authorities, including universities, to “have due regard, in the exercise of its functions, to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

The signatories to the letter say that they are “profoundly concerned about the consequences for UK universities”, noting that universities are “already supporting the government’s Prevent Strategy to counter terrorism and radicalisation” through existing obligations.

They add: “Universities are at their most effective in preventing radicalisation by ensuring that academics and students are free to question and test received wisdom within the law. The bill is not the best means of maximising the contribution universities can make, and may indeed be counterproductive, causing mistrust and alienation.”

And they continue: “To be truly effective in countering terrorism and radicalisation, universities must continue to be independent from government. The new statutory duty should not apply to universities and they should be exempt, as proposed for the security services and judicial bodies.

“This would safeguard the unique status of universities as places where lawful ideas can be voiced and debated without fear of reprisal.”

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

PhD Position in Archaeology and Cultural History

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD position in Energy and Process Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD position in Energy and Process Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD position in Industrial Energy Efficiency

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Postdoc in Traffic Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes