Universities and counter-terrorism: what does ‘Prevent’ mean for higher education?

Monday 12 October 2015

Former business secretary the Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable, and leading academics and higher education professionals will gather in London on 27 October to consider what a new obligation for universities and colleges to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’, means for higher education as well as wider society.

Organised by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS), members of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, the ‘Universities and counter-terrorism: Prevent in practice’ conference will explore the policy rationale underpinning the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, the debates surrounding academic freedom and freedom of expression, and the practical questions which universities will need to address in the light of their duty to prevent radicalisation. The free one-day event will discuss what is now expected of universities, with a focus on three key questions:

• How can universities implement their new obligations while maintaining their traditions of academic freedom?

• How can students be encouraged to explore new ideas and express their developing beliefs if these could be open to misinterpretation   or monitoring?

• How will university staff – from lecturers to senior managers to IT staff – need to work together to implement their new duties?

Professor Philip Murphy, School of Advanced Study’s deputy dean and an expert in the British, Commonwealth and US intelligence communities, said: 'At a time when the limits of academic freedom of speech are being contested by interested parties from across the ideological spectrum, this is an important opportunity to take stock of how universities can reconcile social responsibility with the free exchange of ideas.'

Participants in this important debate include Anthony Glees, professor of politics and director of the centre for security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham; Dr Nadya Ali, teaching fellow in politics, University of Reading and co-convenor of the Critical Terrorism Studies Working Group; Ian Cram, professor of comparative constitutional law, University of Leeds; Dr Damien Short, senior lecturer in human rights, School of Advanced Study; Dr Rizwaan Sabir, lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and an expert in UK counter-terrorism; and Dr Eric Metcalfe, a barrister at Monckton Chambers, specialising in human rights and public law. The final panel of the day, chaired by the University of London’s University Secretary, Maureen Boylan, will address practical issues arising from the new duty.

‘This event intends to bring together a diverse range of individuals and institutions affected by the new Prevent duty for universities: not only those who have a specific research interest in counter-terrorism law, policy and radicalisation issues, but also university managers and administrators and students,’ said Dr Judith Townend, director of the Information Law and Policy Centre at IALS.

‘The new duty is one aspect of a complex debate on academic freedom and national security, with difficult questions at both a theoretical and practical level. Our discussions should allow an opportunity to share knowledge across institutions, as well as inform the future development of government policy in this area.’

The discussions about how to roll out and implement the government’s guidelines to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism within universities have been fraught with controversy and delays. This event will provide a forum for institutions to discuss campus security, academic freedom, free speech and equality rights and how they can be managed within the new legal requirements.

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Notes to Editors:
1. For further information, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8653  / Maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk.

2. The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) was founded in 1947 as a national academic institution serving all universities through its academic programmes, national legal research library and information services.  Its function is to promote, facilitate and disseminate the results of advanced study and research in the discipline of law, for the benefit of persons and institutions in the UK and abroad.  It welcomes scholars from around the world to pursue their research.  Its own areas of speciality include arbitration and dispute settlement, company law, comparative law, economic crime, financial services law, Information law, legislative studies and law reform, and the legal profession and delivery of legal services. The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. www.ials.sas.ac.uk

3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities and celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015. It was officially opened on 15 March 1995, by Sir Anthony Kenny as a federation of the University of London’s research institutes and, since then, has established itself as the UK’s national humanities hub, publicly funded to support and promote research in the humanities nationally and internationally. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2013-14, SAS: welcomed 743 research fellows and associates; held 2,081 research dissemination events; received 26.4 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 202,891 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews

4. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. It consists of 17 self-governing Colleges of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. Learn more about the University of London at www.london.ac.uk