Prevent Watch

People’s Review of Prevent: Brief on the Academic Freedom Bill 2023

university review of prevent duty UK

The People’s Review of Prevent has released a briefing document to the higher education sector that is essential reading given recent events in the Middle East.

Recent events in Israel-Palestine and the expression of support for Palestine online and demonstrations has led to arguments that there is a gap in legislation against incitement to hatred, or support for terrorism. This points to the failure to find an agreed definition of ‘extremism’ in law in 2015 when the Prevent duty was introduced.

Shawcross refers to this as a failure to provide a ‘legislative backbone’. Instead he proposed a ‘political backbone’; that is, a directorate within the Home Office responsible for directing Prevent policy across government departments and nationally in England.

This new directorate was determined by Shawcross to be the Commission for Countering Extremism, led by well known friend of the pro-Zionist lobby, Robin Simcox who took over as Commissioner from Sarah Khan in 2021.

The People’s Review of Prevent brief is directed at staff, students and civil society organisations and it summarises those Shawcross Report recommendations that are likely to have particular relevance to the further and higher education sectors.

The briefing addresses among other crucial developments:

  • the restructuring of the CCE and its sole control over Prevent within the Home Office as a political directorate with no independent accountability.
  • the manner in which individuals will be viewed as being ‘susceptible’ as opposed to ‘vulnerable’ and the emergence of new ‘risk’ categories that could result in expanded monitoring and surveillance of students.
  • specific recommendations directed at universities to counter the ‘anti-Prevent agenda’.
  • proposals to revise training for those overseeing events.
  • the creation of a network of advisors in the DfE who can be invited to promote Prevent at universities.

The briefing is available here.

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