Following my invitation to present evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Universities Group (APPUG) on Tuesday, I was invited to write this short piece for The Conversation, click here to read in full.
Radicalisation on campus: why new counter-terror duties for universities will not work
The government’s attempts to prevent university students from being drawn into violent extremism and terrorism could backfire. From July 1, there will be new duties placed on universities following changes to the government’s PREVENT programme in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
Universities will now be required to provide specialist staff training on radicalisation, carry out risk assessments on the vulnerability of students and have appropriate welfare programmes in place, among other things. While I am acutely aware of the dangers of students being drawn towards extremist ideologies of any persuasion, my concerns are that these new measures will be counter-productive.
One rationale for the new duties is that university staff are uniquely placed to see the changes in the behaviour and outlook of students who have been radicalised. The notion of easily identifiable “changes” have been around for a while, first posited by the then home secretary, John Reid a decade ago. Back then, he was telling Muslim parents about the need to be vigilant in watching their children for the “tell-tale signs” of extremism.
Oft-repeated since, no politician has yet set out exactly what these “tell-tale signs” might be. Neither does the new PREVENT guidance. Unsurprising because in essence, when “changes” or “tell-tale signs” are referred to they are in many ways little more than mere code for becoming “more Muslim”. Whether visual – growing a beard or wearing the niqab for example – or vocal – practising your religion more openly or developing political views about British foreign policy or Palestine for instance – it is the recognition of more Muslim-ness that is problematic.
Read on by clicking here.