Prevent where next? An academic viewpoint on how to get the most out of the agenda Dr Matthew Feldman Teesside University
fascist ideology (treated as ideology like others) far-right terrorism, especially lone wolf terrorism an what I have called ‘broadband terrorism’; namely moving through the terrorist cycle of planning, preparation and targeting via the internet ‘tit for tat’ extremism: illiberal fringe groups targeting each other
respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it; prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support; and work with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation which we need to address.
Prevent 2011 …universities also have a duty of care to their students. Universities and colleges – and, to some extent, university societies and student groups – have a clear and unambiguous role to play in helping to safeguard vulnerable young people from radicalisation and recruitment by terrorist organisations. he sector is regulated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Universities and other higher education institutions are charities and must comply with charity law, guidance on which is provided by the Charity Commission.
We want our universities and colleges to be integrated communities where all staff and students are safe and secure and where free and open debate can take place. A valued aspect of the right to freedom of expression in the UK is that individuals have the right to criticise, disagree and campaign against the government on any issue of foreign or domestic policy they choose. It can be entirely legitimate to hold a view that is radical or extreme on the political spectrum. However, it becomes unacceptable and indeed, is a criminal activity when individuals develop extremist views that lead them to espouse, advocate or even undertake or facilitate violent acts. Institutions must not tolerate those who incite hatred so as to deliberately undermine good campus and community relations, using their extremist viewpoint as a justification for their actions. This guidance highlights the crucial importance of HE institutions, working with students of all backgrounds, to build community cohesion and good race relations on campus and to prevent the segregation of students. It aims to share information and experiences in order to enable university or college authorities to develop a more consistent and effective approach across the sector. It considers recommendations that may be necessary to ensure good relations and a safe environment in HE institutions, thus ensuring that all staff and students can work, study and live without fear of intimidation, harassment, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour.
Manchester City Council Report on implementing Prevent, February 2013 (4.2) The government recognises the important role on Prevent that universities and the further and higher education sector provide in supporting and promoting this challenging and sensitive policy area. However, in some parts of the country this agenda has been met with a resistance by FE HE bodies and students. In Manchester we have been successful in engaging both the University of Manchester and the Manchester Metropolitan University on this agenda. However additional work needs to take place to ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place to prevent radicalisation and violent extremism. In response to this the Government will be appointing a North West Prevent FE HE Coordinator to develop and support the delivery of Prevent related activities in a universities context. The Government has also funded the Charities Commission to deliver a number of engagement events with student bodies and societies, student unions and university departments from the University of Manchester and the Manchester Metropolitan University between February – March 2013. These events will focus on raising awareness around fund raising, charities and due diligence issues. We are aware that these events will also raise challenging issues around extremism.
PREVENT ON CAMPUS: OBJECTIVES, RISKS, AND APPLICATION What would ‘best practice’ entail for Prevent activities on campus 2013/14? NUS and student body participation; University governance and Codes of Conduct; trusting space for difficult discussions; freedom of speech and the right to challenge; monitoring external speakers and online content; multiethnic and multicultural places; helping vulnerable individuals and student welfare; new Prevent policies or extension of existing policies (‘campus relations’/’safeguarding’/‘safe college’)
UNIVERSITIES’ CONTRIBUTION TO PREVENT How can academics and students usefully contribute to the Prevent strategy? Facilitate legitimate criticism of policies (especially of Prevent); questions of terminology; research on terrorism and violent extremism (e.g. radicalisation and drivers for terrorism); discussion of other threats from violent extremism (far-right; £175k spent by each University per year on animal rights extremism); knowledge of campus life and ability to work with students from various backgrounds; provider of neutral, ‘arm’s length’ analysis and/or monitoring of Prevent; professional interface between student body and policy-makers; demonstrate an ability to work with Prevent coordinators/student groups/academic managers to ensure non- discriminatory and proportionate implementation – avoiding overzealousness (e.g. Nottingham Two) or overly laissez faire approach (i.e. extremist speakers on campus); promotion of community cohesion via ‘Codes of Conduct’/online guidance
Risks for Prevent at Universities? -‘spying’ and intelligence gathering -‘agents of the state’ and importance of academic independence and neutrality -stigmatizing particular ‘at risk’ communities -Getting wrong incitement vs. free speech -Non-viable frameworks for engaging extremists on campus / lack of NUS support / student hostility