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Executive summary


1. Since September 2016, ‘relevant higher education bodies’ have been subject under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to a statutory duty to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. In doing so, they must have particular regard to their existing duties to ensure freedom of speech and consider academic freedom. Further information on how higher education providers should implement the duty is set out in two sets of statutory guidance published by the Government.

2. The Government appointed HEFCE to monitor implementation of the duty across the higher education sector in England, covering 321 higher education providers. Alternative arrangements apply in Wales and Scotland.

3. To demonstrate ‘due regard’ to the duty, higher education providers need to:

  • have robust and appropriate policies and processes in place, responding to the Prevent duty statutory guidance
  • show that they are actively implementing and following these policies in practice.

4. The first year of HEFCE’s monitoring work has focused on the first part of this: ensuring that providers have the appropriate policies and processes in place. Every provider has submitted detailed evidence which HEFCE has assessed against the requirements of the statutory guidance. This assessment resulted in one of three initial outcomes:

  1. The evidence satisfied the requirements of the guidance.
    A provider fell into this category if the evidence submitted demonstrated that:
    1. Processes were in place for sharing concerns about individuals who might be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism where these are identified. Providers were expected to show that there were appropriate internal welfare mechanisms and escalation processes, including making a Prevent referral leading to discussion at a locally coordinated multi-agency Channel panel (which can include local safeguarding leads, education, NHS and other health services, social services, and the police) where needed.
    2. Staff were undertaking relevant Prevent-related training, including ensuring that key personnel understood how to respond when concerns were identified.
    3. Policies were in place to identify and manage the risks that any external speakers might express extremist views that risk drawing people into terrorism, while balancing this with their existing legal duties relating to freedom of speech.
  2. The evidence needed improvement in key areas.
    Where this initial outcome applied, this indicated that, while work to implement the duty was under way, further work was needed in one of these key areas before we could take assurance that the provider had responded to the guidance appropriately – for example, where a provider did not have a clear process for identifying and responding to welfare concerns, or did not have a sufficiently robust approach to managing external speakers and events.
  3. The evidence demonstrably did not satisfy requirements.
    Where a provider was found to be not satisfying requirements, this indicated that we found that plans for implementing the duty were not in place or were not credible. In these cases providers were given a short window to provider further evidence. If this was not forthcoming, or was insufficient to address concerns, the provider was referred formally to the Department for Education to consider whether further formal action was needed.

5. Our second year of monitoring work will focus on whether providers can demonstrate that those policies are implemented actively and are working effectively. We will establish this through:

  • annual reports from all providers, setting out evidence and data related to their implementation of the duty
  • risk-based Prevent reviews to gather further evidence where needed.
  • investigation of serious Prevent-related incidents, reported to us by institutions themselves or by third parties.

Findings from our monitoring work

Headline findings

6. All 321 providers submitted detailed evidence to us between April and August 2016.

7. From our review of the detailed evidence submitted, 84 per cent of providers satisfied us that they had responded appropriately to the statutory guidance. This included having robust policies in place for the management of external speakers and events, clear processes for dealing with safeguarding concerns, and appropriate plans for training staff.

8. A total of 15 per cent of providers needed to improve policies in some key areas before they satisfied requirements, although they demonstrated evidence of active engagement with the duty. Where we concluded that a provider’s policies and processes needed improvement, it was required to agree an action plan to resolve these issues. Of the 49 providers in this category, 24 have since completed all outstanding actions and been reassessed as satisfying requirements. The remainder will have done so by early 2017.

9. Only two providers (1 per cent) did not satisfy us that they were engaging with the requirements of the duty. One of these subsequently provided further evidence which meant it was reassessed as ‘needing improvement’. The other provider no longer has specific course designation (for reasons unrelated to our assessment of its Prevent return) and as a result is no longer subject to the statutory duty; however, as for all providers assessed as not satisfying requirements, HEFCE has provided details to the Department for Education.

Thematic findings

10. Most providers had identified the risks pertinent to their own context and developed appropriate, tailored responses. Generally, providers demonstrated clearly that they had understood the requirements of the duty and how to implement these in a proportionate way:

  1. External speakers and events: providers showed a strong understanding of their responsibilities around freedom of speech and had responded pragmatically to the requirements of the duty. Most providers were balancing these by putting in place strong policies for assessing and managing the risks around any speaker or event – 93 per cent demonstrated they already had robust processes in place.
  2. Leadership and partnership: across the sector we found clear evidence of engagement by senior leaders, governors and proprietors in implementing the duty. Around 90 per cent of providers also demonstrated that they had partnerships in place with other Prevent-related agencies – although these varied depending on the size and context of the provider.
  3. Risk assessment and action plan: all providers submitted risk assessments and action plans assessing the risks identified. Generally these were appropriate to institutions’ circumstances and demonstrated a strong understanding of where risks might occur.
  4. Staff training: more than 90 per cent of providers demonstrated that they had appropriate plans in place for training staff to carry out Prevent-related functions and understand how to recognise and respond to concerns about vulnerable individuals.
  5. Welfare, chaplaincy support and pastoral care: the vast majority of providers – 88 per cent – demonstrated that they had clear processes for sharing and escalating concerns about vulnerable individuals internally, and for sharing these where necessary with external multi-agency partnerships (including referring to Prevent and discussion at a Channel panel where appropriate).
  6. Information technology (IT) policies: this was the area where the most providers identified that they still had further work to do to meet the requirements of the guidance in full. Although most providers had policies and processes in place, around a third still needed to do more work to ensure these responded fully to the duty. We have asked providers to submit further information through the first annual reports.
  7.  Students, students’ unions and societies: we found that providers were generally working closely with students and student representatives to implement the duty – 96 per cent demonstrated that they were consulting students on the policies they were putting in place. We also found that an overwhelming majority of providers demonstrated clearly how institutional policies, such as those around external speakers and events, applied to students’ unions and societies.

11. Where providers were found not yet to have appropriate policies in place, the most common issues were slow progress in updating policies to respond to the duty. In a small number of cases, providers had misunderstood the intention of the duty and needed further external support to revise policies which were inappropriate (for example, welfare policies that would result in concerns being referred externally on a quarterly basis rather than promptly as they arise). In other cases, we expected providers to strengthen or formalise policies to ensure they were sufficiently robust.

Supporting ‘what works’

12. Throughout the first year of the duty we have engaged actively with all providers subject to the duty and provided a range of advice and guidance, including: working with stakeholders to provide workshops and events for senior managers; funding the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education to develop a suite of sector-specific online training materials; and providing specialist support for governing bodies and proprietors.

13. Building on this, from spring 2017 HEFCE will carry out a series of ‘deep dives’ into particular areas of the duty, culminating in publications setting out examples of approaches that have worked for different institutions.

Action required

14. This report is for information only.

Date: 18 January 2017

Ref: HEFCE 2017/01

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