Student consultation on UWE Bristol’s response to the Prevent Duty
The objective of the Prevent Duty is to safeguard individuals from being radicalised and drawn into terrorism.
What is the University doing to comply with the Prevent Duty?
We have been working with The Students’ Union at UWE Bristol and others to respond to the Prevent Duty in a proportionate and considered way. We welcome the duty of care aspect of Prevent and are very keen to maintain positive and open relationships with all our students and ensure that you have a great experience. The University offers an open and inclusive environment to everyone, and we are proud of our diversity. We intend to maintain and build on this.
View Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience Jo Midgley's presentation on how UWE Bristol is reacting to Prevent.
Response to consultation - summary of feedback and responses
In January 2016 the University and The Students' Union at UWE Bristol held a student consultation to discuss the University's response to the Prevent Duty. The feedback and actions can be found below:
External speaker policy, encouraging debate and freedom of speech
Students asked for reassurance that the University’s response to Prevent would not hinder debate as it enriches their student experience. Students asked whether there would be guidelines on what is considered extremist views and safeguard of freedom of speech.
- The objective of the University will be to run events where it can. Students will be able to invite speakers who are controversial for whatever reason. However, the University or The Students’ Union will need to be made aware through the room booking system so that it can ensure that the planned event will meet the provisions of the Freedom of Speech and External Speaker policies, and/or to enable safeguards to be put in place where it is deemed appropriate to do so.
- Students would be able to chair meetings, and would be supported to do so through training. Only if they would prefer not to chair would The Students' Union look for a non-student to chair the meeting. The detail of what would be put into place when a speaker is assessed as extremist would be assessed on a case by case basis.
- The Freedom of Speech policy includes guidelines on what is unacceptable within freedom of speech legislation.
There is a growing suspicion of Muslim students by society and the University
Students reported lower participation in the Islamic Society with prospective members not engaging because of concerns this would lead to suspicion. Students were also concerned that there might be monitoring of prayer spaces at the University. Muslim students often do not feel confident to challenge Islamophobia.
- The University is very concerned to hear the level of worry felt by Muslim students, and wants to encourage and support participation in all aspects of University life, including societies and use of prayer and faith facilities.
- The University aims to provide an inclusive environment for all and, in the light of this feedback recognises that it needs to do more, in collaboration with students. This is a major aspect of the our Strategy 2020 agenda and taken seriously at the most senior level within the University. Students are invited and encouraged to work with the UWE Bristol Strategy 2020 agenda to ensure their needs and aspirations are met.
- The Prevent agenda applies to all forms of extremism. The University does not, and will not, target particular groups of students or staff in its implementation of the Prevent duty.
- Prevent requires universities to ensure there is appropriate support and facilities for faith groups, and providing appropriate spaces has therefore become a higher priority. The Chaplain and the Head of Student Experience and Enrichment are drafting guidelines for the use of faith spaces. They are putting to paper current practice, and expect that the guidelines will be in line with current practice. Faith groups will be consulted on the new guidelines.
How is “vulnerability to radicalisation” assessed?
- Everyone recognises that there is no single answer, which is difficult. At the University, a concern that a student is vulnerable, or becoming vulnerable, to radicalisation would be initially screened by the Prevent Coordinator. If she felt that the concern is valid (ie not vexatious or the result of a misunderstanding), she would call a meeting involving people within the University who know the student and would be able to shed light on the student's situation and assess the risk they are vulnerable to radicalisation. Since the Prevent duty has come into place, few concerns have been raised. A small number have led to an internal risk assessment meeting. Of these, one led to an external referral, but it was deemed not to meet the thresholds for a referral to Channel. Any referral to Channel is discussed with the individual, and intervention is only put into place with their approval.
Would the University be concerned if students were expressing views against Prevent?
- No, it is the students’ right to disagree with the Government’s counter terrorism policies, many do so nationwide, and many academics and members of the wider public are against the policy. Students disagreeing with or campaigning against Prevent would not raise any concern. The SU would support students in discussing or lobbying nationally against Prevent if there was an organised group who asked for this support.
How would the University deal with cases of discrimination, from students or from staff?
- The Bullying and Harassment policy provides the framework for responding to complaints of discrimination or hate crime against staff and students. The University has a zero tolerance approach to incidents of this nature. If any such complaint was found to be substantiated, this would be followed up with action through the Student Conduct Policy or disciplinary procedures for staff.
No specific concerns were raised about the University's approach to implementing the Prevent Duty or the policies either being put in place or revised. We therefore consider that students see our response as reasonable and proportionate.
However, we also accept that some Muslim students have concerns about the Government's agenda and are feeling stigmatised as a result. We will continue to strive to provide an inclusive learning community for all and as a result of this feedback the University and the Students' Union at UWE Bristol will be formally considering ways in which we can celebrate the wide diversity of our student population. Any ideas from students about how this can be done would be very welcome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you wish to engage further with the Prevent agenda and the University's response to it, you are still able to do so via The Students' Union at UWE Bristol, who are represented on our Prevent task and Finish group.
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