In a convulsive act of responsive policy and positioning, a new publication on freedom of speech in Universities has hit the shelves. This, I suspect, is going to be interesting reading – it is from the Vice-Chancellor’s cabal we know and love as ‘Universities UK’ – a name for the infinite escalation of ego and salary combined.
And because no-one, simply no-one, can do anything without a podcast these days, there is also a youtube video, with the UCL Provost talking about how we dont want students spying on each other and the best way to ensure freedom of speech is to have ‘openness, publicity, transparency and challenge’. Hear Hear!
Indeed, the setting up of the Working Group behind this report was prompted by the events of Christmas Day 2009 when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was apprehended in attempting to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Eighteen months previously he had graduated from University College London, where he had also been president of the student Islamic Society. An independent inquiry chaired by Professor Dame Fiona Caldicott concluded unequivocally that there was no evidence to suggest that he had been radicalised during his time as a student, and MI5 see the hand of the Yemen-based preacher Anwar Al Awlaqi in his conversion to violent extremism
Potential Controversial Issues:
• subject to adverse media attention
• Associated with a campaign or political pressure group
• A faith or belief group whose views may be deemed as being discriminatory or inflammatory to others
Prevent is the element of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy that has been most visible to universities. The Prevent strand aimed to support community cohesion and thereby deter or divert people away from violent extremism. The strategy is currently being reviewed by the Coalition Government and it is clear that its focus and approach will alter over the next few years
Universities UK, working with the sector, has also been examining issues relating to entirely legitimate research by academics into potentially sensitive areas, such as terrorism and extremism. The work has been looking at the handling of sensitive research materials, and how institutions might need to adapt practices and processes. UUK will publish a guidance note for institutions later in 2011
An independent review (headed by Dame Fiona Caldicott) into Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s time at UCL published its final report in in October 2010. The central conclusion of the report was that there was no evidence to suggest either that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was radicalised while a student at UCL, or that conditions at UCL during that time or subsequently were conducive to the radicalisation of students
Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK
More to come…