Extremism Guidance for Universities and Colleges

The Government has published its proposed guidance to universities, colleges and other specified authorities on what they will be expected to do to satisfy their duty under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to “to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This guidance may not become law until after the General Election, but it’s probably worth thinking about how to implement it now.

The good news is that most of the measures proposed to deal with radicalisation appear to build on existing activities in educational institutions. Most of the requirements refer to existing arrangements for supporting both staff and students: policies on safety and welfare, staff training, visitor arrangements and whistle-blowing are mentioned. Where a risk assessment identifies that any of these are insufficient, an action plan should be developed to improve them. Existing work such as the Safe Campus Communities website and Jisc’s safeguarding work are cited. The need to conduct appropriate research into terrorism and counter-terrorism is recognised, with a pointer to UUK’s existing guidance on how that may be conducted safely.

IT policies are mentioned, but again in terms of existing policies on (un)acceptable use and arrangements (if any) to use filtering to reduce access to unacceptable content. In both cases the wording of the guidance appears to suggest that these existing measures should be extended to cover radicalisation, not that organisations should adopt a completely different approach. That seems sensible – whether an organisation’s existing risk assessment of relatively well-defined content types such as malware and copyright has concluded either that filtering is appropriate, or that other methods will be more effective, it seems unlikely that adding the much looser category of “content likely to radicalise” will change that assessment.

In addition, implementation of the guidance appears likely to be overseen by bodies already familiar with the education sector, so the “regulators” should be aware of the likely impact on education and research processes of any measures they require.

By Andrew Cormack

I'm Chief Regulatory Advisor at Jisc, responsible for keeping an eye out for places where our ideas, services and products might raise regulatory issues. My aim is to fix either the product or service, or the regulation, before there's a painful bump!

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