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Executive summary

Purpose

1. This consultation seeks views on a proposed monitoring framework to be operated by HEFCE and intended to satisfy Government that ‘relevant higher education bodies’ (RHEBs) (see paragraph 8) are fulfilling their duty to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism (the ‘Prevent’ duty).

Key points

2. As part of the Government’s strategy to reduce terrorism in the UK, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (the Act) introduced a package of measures aimed at countering the risk of terrorism and radicalisation. Part 5 of the Act deals with the risk of people being drawn into terrorism and introduced the statutory ‘Prevent’ duty for a range of public and other bodies. Relevant higher education bodies became subject to the new ‘Prevent’ duty on 18 September 2015.

3. There are two sets of statutory guidance (see paragraph 30 and Annex C) which RHEBs will need to consider when carrying out the duty:

  1. Guidance for bodies in all sectors covered by the duty.
  2. Guidance specifically for the higher education (HE) sector.

4. The guidance for all sectors makes it clear that all bodies will be expected to establish senior management oversight arrangements, carry out a ‘Prevent’ risk assessment, and develop an action plan covering staff training arrangements and a range of other topics in the guidance. The guidance specifically for the HE sector highlights a number of additional areas specific to RHEBs which need to be taken into account, such as policies and procedures for managing events on campus, arrangements for welfare and chaplaincy support, and policies relating to the use of IT equipment.

5. The Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills has delegated the new statutory function of ‘monitoring authority’ to HEFCE, and requires us to develop and implement a monitoring framework (see paragraph 21 and Annex A). The monitoring framework should enable us to assess whether relevant bodies are effectively fulfilling their new duty. RHEBs are required by law to provide us with the information we need to carry out the monitoring function. We are expected to report the outcome of our assessments to Government.

6. The Government has made it clear to us that, as soon as possible, we must establish that not only do RHEBs have policies and procedures to enable them to deliver the ‘Prevent’ duty but also that they are robust. In other words, we must satisfy ourselves that the policies and procedures appear to be fit for purpose before we can monitor their active implementation and effectiveness. This means that we will be asking for detailed documentation in the initial assessment phase, although we aim to reduce our requirements in subsequent years.

7. The proposed monitoring framework is linked closely to the Government’s ‘Prevent’ guidance. As discussed in paragraphs 23 to 29 and Annex B the duty applies to a wide range of providers with very different institutional structures and cultures. It will therefore be the responsibility of providers to assess the risks in their own context and put in place appropriate and proportionate responses to those risks. HEFCE will assess whether the action plans, policies and processes set out by RHEBs are sufficient to respond to the issues identified in their risk assessments and take into account the areas highlighted in both sets of statutory guidance. When we publish the final monitoring framework we will provide further information on the kinds of factors we expect to be covered in reports to us. However, this will not be prescriptive or exhaustive.

8. The terms ‘relevant higher education bodies’, ‘relevant bodies’ and ‘RHEBs’ refer to a range of different institutions that provide higher education in England. In all cases the Act refers to the governing body or proprietor as having ultimate responsibility. For the purposes of this consultation, we have grouped HE providers into three kinds of relevant body, based on the extent to which HEFCE already engages with them:

  1. Higher education providers that we fund directly, and are subject to our full accountability oversight arrangements (referred to in this document as ‘HEFCE-funded providers’).
  2. Providers that are subject to specific course designation processes administered by HEFCE in order to provide advice to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) (‘Alternative providers with specific course designation’).
  3. Other institutions that provide higher education with which HEFCE has typically had little or no direct contact (‘Other institutions’).

The term does not include schools, sixth form colleges, further education colleges/corporations, students’ unions or student societies.

9. The proposed framework has the following main elements:

Phase one – initial assessments

  1. During December 2015 and January 2016 we will require all RHEBs to send us a preliminary self-assessment report using a five-point scale, of their current level of compliance with the ‘Prevent’ duty guidance. (See template at Annex D.)
  2. During the spring and summer of 2016 we will require all relevant bodies to send us more detailed documentation about their ‘Prevent’ risk assessment and their policies and procedures for the topics covered by the ‘Prevent’ guidance, together with an updated self-assessment report. The submission dates will be different for each of the three groups (a to c) noted in paragraph 8.

Phase two – continuing monitoring

  1. After the initial assessments we will in subsequent years require an annual report from the governing body or proprietor of all relevant bodies demonstrating how they have actively delivered the Prevent duty. This will also be submitted at different dates – aligned to existing processes, where possible – for each group.
  2. Each year, we will also require a sample of RHEBs to submit the latest versions of their ‘Prevent’-related documentation. We intend to cover all bodies on a five-yearly cycle. 

10. As the monitoring authority, HEFCE has no role in investigating particular incidents linked to the ‘Prevent’ duty. However, we will expect all RHEBs to report all such serious incidents as they occur in order to reassure us that ‘Prevent’ processes have been reviewed and revised as necessary. We will follow our existing public interest disclosure (whistleblowing) policy in response to reports from third parties about an RHEB’s approach to the ‘Prevent’ duty.

11. We will assess all the information we receive, liaising as necessary with individual RHEBs. We expect to provide feedback to the higher education sector generally on good practice that we identify. We will report to BIS at appropriate stages, including where we have serious or persistent concerns about the arrangements at any institution. BIS may refer such cases to the ‘Prevent’ Oversight Board – a Home Office committee that advises the Home Secretary. (The Home Secretary has the power to issue directions, although the ‘Prevent’ duty guidance states that this power will be used only when other options have been exhausted.)

Responding to this consultation

12. The closing date for responses is noon on Friday 23 October 2015. Responses should be made online. The consultation questions are throughout the document and are listed at Annex E.

13. Since the ‘Prevent’ duty is already in force, we have limited the consultation period to enable us to publish the final framework as soon as possible. We have however discussed the proposals in advance of the consultation with a number of individual RHEBs and with sector representative bodies, including Universities UK, GuildHE, Study UK and the Association of Heads of University Administration. We have also arranged for and funded the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education to run events and training activities for senior managers and members of governing bodies. In addition, we will hold a number of meetings and engagement events with RHEBs during the consultation period. Further information will shortly be available about these at: www.hefce.ac.uk/reg/prevent/events/.

Freedom of Information Act

14. Information provided in response to this consultation may be made public, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act or of an appropriate licence, or through another arrangement.

15. Such information includes text, data and datasets. The Freedom of Information Act gives a public right of access to any information held by a public authority defined within the Act, in this case HEFCE. It applies to information provided by individuals and organisations, for example universities and colleges. HEFCE can refuse to make such information available only in exceptional circumstances. This means that data and information are unlikely to be treated as confidential except in very particular circumstances.

Analysis of responses

16. HEFCE will commit to read, record and analyse the views of every response to this consultation in a consistent manner. For reasons of practicality, usually a fair and balanced summary of responses rather than the individual responses themselves will inform any decision made. In most cases, the merit of arguments made is likely to be given more weight than the number of times the same point is made. Responses from organisations or representative bodies which have high relevance or interest in the area under consultation, or are likely to be affected most by the proposals, are likely to carry more weight than those with little or none.

Publication

17. We will publish an analysis of the consultation responses and an explanation of how they were considered in our subsequent decision. Where we have not been able to respond to a significant and material issue raised, we will usually explain the reasons for this. It is our intention to publish all consultation responses when we publish our analysis. If you have any concerns about the publication of your response please ensure that you advise us of this in the comments box at the end of the second page of the online response form.

Date: 22 September 2015

Ref: HEFCE 2015/22

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Heads of other relevant higher education bodies

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Governance, Administration, Student services, Information technology, Security, Chaplaincy, Students’ unions, Higher education policy, Counter-terrorism policy

Enquiries should be directed to:

HEFCE ‘Prevent’ team, email prevent@hefce.ac.uk