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The report, ‘Implementation of the Prevent duty in the higher education sector in England: 2015-16’ (HEFCE 2017/01), shows that more than four-fifths of higher education providers (84 per cent) have put robust policies and processes in place in response to the duty [Note 2]. These findings draw on HEFCE’s assessment of evidence submitted by 321 providers between April and August 2016. This covers a wide range of providers, including HEFCE-funded providers, alternative providers, and the autonomous colleges, schools and halls of Oxford, Cambridge and Durham.

HEFCE found that most providers had identified the risks in their own context and developed appropriate, tailored responses. This included:

  • training for relevant staff so they understand how to respond when concerns are identified
  • robust policies and processes to identify and manage the risks that any external speakers might express extremist views that might draw people into terrorism, balanced with existing legal duties relating to freedom of speech
  • clear routes for sharing and reporting concerns about individuals who might be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism, including understanding how to make external referrals
  • partnerships with Department for Education Prevent Coordinators, police and local authorities.

HEFCE found that at 49 providers further work was needed in key areas to respond fully to the guidance. HEFCE agreed action plans with these providers to resolve any outstanding issues: 24 of them have since completed this further work, while the remainder have plans in place to do so by spring 2017. HEFCE only found two providers that did not demonstrate that they were engaging with the requirements of the duty [Note 3].

HEFCE Chief Executive, Madeleine Atkins, said:

‘Our assessment of the first year of providers’ response to the Prevent duty shows that they are fulfilling their responsibilities to their students and staff with rigour and commitment. The report and case studies demonstrate the breadth of activities they are undertaking to implement the duty in a range of circumstances. It gives a clear picture of providers’ determination to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism while ensuring the continued importance of freedom of speech and academic freedom.’

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:

‘I am pleased to see the findings in the report as it demonstrates the commitment from universities to the Prevent Duty. Our higher education institutions have an important role to play in helping to prevent people being drawn into terrorism, whilst also maintaining freedom of speech on campus.

‘It is encouraging that there is a broad range of actions being carried out by our universities. This shows how seriously they take their responsibilities to help keep their staff and students safe.’

Notes

1. Read the report

2. The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a legal duty on a range of organisations, including higher education providers, to have ‘due regard’ to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism (known as the ‘Prevent duty’). HEFCE has responsibility for monitoring how the duty is implemented in the higher education sector in England.

3. Of these two providers, one is no longer subject to the legislation and the other has since demonstrated that it is engaging with the requirements.

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