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Taking action in higher education

Reaction to government guidelines on tackling extremism in universities

22 January 2008 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today said that while it recognised violent extremism was a serious issue the government wanted to tackle, it did not believe that again targeting universities or the Muslim community would help achieve the community cohesion the government wants to foster.

The union was commenting on reissued government guidelines on tackling violent extremism in universities, which it also recognised contained improvements to the guidelines first issued in 2006.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'UCU, like the overwhelming majority of people, takes the threat of terrorism seriously. We welcome the emphasis the government has put on community cohesion in regards to tackling violent extremism on campus. It is also encouraging that this time round there appears to be less emphasis on foisting the guidance on staff and more on universities working with local union branches to discuss best practice.

'Staff are not trained to, and should not be expected to, police their students. For community cohesion to truly work, universities must remain safe environments for all staff and students to work and live. No student should ever think they are being spied on and no staff member should ever be pressurised into treating any group of students differently from another.

'Our members have made it quite clear in the past that they do not wish to police their students or engage in any activity that might lead to the erosion of trust between staff and students. We do not believe that would be in the spirit of these guidelines and will challenge any institution that tries to force staff to spy on their students. 

'Worryingly though, despite some changes, the guidelines once again target the Muslim community. The warm words about tackling segregation look a little hollow when five out of six of the examples provided are scenarios potentially involving Islamic groups.'