Dear Vice-Chancellor, Principal or equivalent
Prevent duty monitoring framework, Phase 1: Request for documentation from relevant higher education bodies
1. This circular letter confirms the requirement for higher education bodies that are subject to the Prevent duty to submit the policies, processes or arrangements that demonstrate that they have regard to the Prevent duty guidance published by the Government in 2015. (The guidance is available in two documents, ‘Revised Prevent duty guidance: for England and Wales’ and ‘Prevent duty guidance: for higher education institutions in England and Wales’, both available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prevent-duty-guidance.)
2. As set out in our Prevent duty monitoring framework (www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2015/201532/), most HEFCE funded providers are due to submit their information by 1 April 2016, alternative providers with specific course designation by 1 June 2016, and all other relevant providers by 1 August 2016.
3. We have agreed that the Universities of Cambridge, Durham and Oxford, which need to coordinate their policies, processes and arrangements with those of their autonomous colleges, will submit their detailed information on 1 August. For similar reasons, 1 August will also be the submission date for the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. For the avoidance of doubt, colleges of further education – whether funded directly or indirectly by HEFCE – are outside the scope of our monitoring responsibility and should not send us Prevent-related material.
The information to be submitted
4. Following consultation, the Prevent duty monitoring framework sets out the material that we require, and which institutions have a duty to provide (See the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, Section 32(2) available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/6/contents.)
5. This material is as follows:
- A copy of the institution’s:
- Prevent duty risk assessment.
- Action plan in response to that risk assessment.
- Policies and procedures for managing the risks around external speakers and events on campus and institution-branded events taking place off campus. Such policies should reflect the institution’s duty to ensure freedom of speech (within the law) on campus and its arrangements to protect the importance of academic freedom.
- A paper or report that summarises the institution’s arrangements for the following, where they are not already covered in the risk assessment or action plan:
- Senior management and governance oversight of the implementation of its Prevent duty obligations and engagement with Prevent partners.
- Engaging with and consulting students on the institution’s plans for implementing the Prevent duty.
- Training appropriate staff about Prevent.
- Sharing information internally and externally about vulnerable individuals, where appropriate.
- Sharing information about external speakers with other institutions, where legal and appropriate (if not covered in the policies for external speakers and events referred to in paragraph 5a(iii)).
- Ensuring sufficient pastoral and chaplaincy support for all students (including arrangements for managing prayer and faith facilities).
- The use of the institution’s computer facilities (hardware, software, networks, social media), to include consideration of filtering arrangements and of academic activities that might require online access to sensitive or extremism-related material.
- Engaging with students’ unions and societies, which are not subject to the Prevent duty but are expected to cooperate with their institutions.
6. Each of these items is covered in the statutory Prevent guidance, but we have also suggested in an ‘Advice Note’ a number of issues that providers may want to consider when developing or updating their relevant policies, procedures and arrangements. (The latest version of the Advice Note, updated on 16 February 2016, is available at www.hefce.ac.uk/reg/prevent/framework/#advicenote.) We will be considering the issues in the advice note when carrying out our assessments (see paragraphs 16 to 19).
7. The document referred to in paragraph 3b should confirm that the institution’s accountable officer has approved the whole submission, including the material referred to in paragraph 3a. For the autonomous colleges and other providers – which do not have accountable officers – the document should confirm that the whole submission has been approved by the head of the organisation.
8. As part of this submission, but on a voluntary basis, we also ask institutions to provide data about the following:
- ‘Channel’ programme:
- The number of people considered for referral to the Channel programme.
- The number of people referred to the Channel programme.
- The number of people accepted onto the Channel programme.
- Events and speakers:
- The number of events and speakers referred to the highest levels of approval required by the institution’s procedures.
- Staff training:
- The number of staff who received Prevent-related training, with an indication of the nature of the training, including where different categories of staff received different types of training.
9. The data will be used to show aggregate numbers and trends over time at a national, regional and sector level, alongside similar data collected in the other sectors that are subject to the Prevent duty. It will not be used or interpreted at an individual institutional level (except in cases where it implies a serious issue – for example, an institution training no staff at all).
10. We are keen to learn from the initial voluntary data return so that we can address any issue before it becomes a mandatory feature of annual reporting (as part of Phase 2 of the monitoring framework). We would therefore encourage institutions to provide a data return with their 1 April submission. We will also be grateful for views on how this part of the process has worked.
How to submit this information
11. We expect institutions to upload their own documents in either Word or PDF formats to the HEFCE secure extranet. Whichever format, each document will need any annexes to be embedded; it will not be possible to upload them as separate documents. If the risk assessment includes the action plan or if an institution believes that it does not need a speakers and events policy, we will require a short document to be uploaded to confirm this. No later than two weeks before each submission date, we will write to your institution’s nominated Prevent lead officer with the ‘group keys’ and other instructions as to how to access the extranet.
12. We are not providing a template or form for the documents referred to in paragraphs 5a and 5b. This reflects our recognition of the many different circumstances and practices in the sector, and the expectation in the statutory guidance that institutions respond to the duty in a proportionate way. This also makes it difficult to provide guidance as to the length of each submission, particularly the paper or report referred to in paragraph 5b.
13. We would, however, remind providers that when we consulted about the monitoring framework, many of the respondents argued against a requirement to submit separate policies and procedures for each of the factors. We expect the paper or report to cover each of the factors, to identify any underlying substantive policies or procedural documents, and to summarise their key features. The underlying documents may be annexed, but we would ask institutions only to do so if they contain important practical or procedural detail that cannot readily be summarised in a way that shows how the institution is addressing the statutory guidance, including issues in our advice note.
14. We will provide a template for the data return, because we need this information in a standard format to enable us to compile sector aggregates. The template – which will be an Excel spreadsheet – will be downloadable from the extranet when you receive the letter with the group keys. The template will include space for free-form comment about the requirement for data as part of the annual reporting process. For this reason, we will require the template to be returned, even if you choose not to provide data.
15. A PDF version of the template is at Annex A below for illustrative purposes, but should not be used for the submission.
How we will assess your submission
16. We have established a Prevent External Advisory Group (PEAG) to provide specialist, strategic and practical advice. (Information about PEAG, including its membership, is available at www.hefce.ac.uk/reg/prevent/.) At its first meeting, the Group discussed our proposed assessment process, which is summarised below. Later in the year PEAG will consider the way the Phase 1 process has worked and also contribute to the formal evaluation of our monitoring role required in the delegation letter from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
17. The material that you send us will be read by one of HEFCE’s Prevent advisers who will consider whether, in their opinion, it adequately addresses the statutory guidance. While they will be examining each individual factor, their initial judgement (see paragraph 19) will be made on the basis of the full set of material taken together. Each assessment will be quality-assured by a senior member of the Prevent team. A sample of completed assessments will be considered by an internal ‘moderation panel’ whose members are independent of the Prevent team. At any of these stages, HEFCE may wish to contact you with queries as part of the assessment, requesting clarification on elements of your submission or some other form of follow-up.
18. Once the assessment has been completed, we have delegated authority from the HEFCE Board to approve the outcomes of the assessment process.
19. For each institution we will make one of three overall judgements:
- The information provided satisfies the requirements of the statutory guidance. In some cases we may judge that an institution satisfies the guidance overall, but still suggest some areas for improvement or best practice for the institution to consider.
- The information provided needs improvement before it will satisfy the requirements of the statutory guidance. This may reflect a major omission or weakness, or raise a series of lesser concerns suggesting that the institution cannot yet be said to have ‘had regard’ to the statutory guidance.
- The information provided does not satisfy the requirements of the statutory guidance: an institution will fall into this category if it altogether refuses to engage with us about a ‘needs improvement’ judgement, refuses to make necessary changes, or fails to do so within a reasonable timeframe. An institution that does not provide the information that we require will also not satisfy the requirements.
After the assessment process
20. We see a ‘needs improvement’ judgement as a transitional outcome. We will expect institutions to agree a ‘progress plan’ with us, with a clear implementation timetable. We will then engage with the institution, until the necessary changes have been made and we can change our overall judgement to ‘satisfies’. We undertake to ensure that dialogue at this stage is constructive and resolution-focused. In the unlikely event that, despite this dialogue, the institution fails to make progress, we will change our judgement will to one of ‘does not satisfy’.
21. After making reasonable efforts to achieve improvements, HEFCE will refer institutions with a ‘does not satisfy’ judgement to BIS, which will decide whether to refer the institution to the Prevent Oversight Board – a Home Office Committee which can recommend enforcement action to the Home Secretary. HEFCE has no role in these processes, but we would expect to provide full documentation, including correspondence, to BIS and to answer any of BIS’s questions.
22. We will take into account the judgements at the end of this detailed review when we select the sample of institutions for inclusion in the 2017 Phase 2 cyclical monitoring.
Professor Madeleine Atkins