Universities and unions urged to spy on extremist groups

1. To promote and reinforce shared values; to create space for free and open debate; and to listen to and support mainstream voices.

2. To break down segregation amongst different student communities including by supporting inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue and understanding and to engage all students in playing a full and active role in wider engagement with society.

3. To ensure student safety and campuses that are free from bullying, harassment and intimidation.

4. To provide support for students who may be at risk and appropriate sources of advice and guidance.

5. To ensure that staff and students are aware of their roles in preventing violent extremism.

National Union of Students president Gemma Tumelty welcomed the new guidelines but said the section on free speech was unhelpful and contradictory. She added: “Lecturers and students both have an interest in combating terrorism but we have concerns that encouraging lecturers to monitor groups of students could polarise their relationship.”

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell hit back to the criticism of the paper saying the threat from university campuses was “serious but not widespread”. He said he did not want to “overstate the menace” of violent extremism, but it was a “real and serious threat”. “The director-general of the security services said there were about 200 groups encompassing 2,000 people engaged in promoting and organising terrorist activity,” Although these groups were to be found not just in the higher education sector, there would be examples there, he warned.

Royal Holloway’s Student’s Union President Joff Manning commented ‘We are disturbed that the government can be so short sighted. The paper claims to provide advice on how to stop groups of students being isolated, and then targets one particular demographic as being particularly dangerous. We do not condone monitoring any group of students, and the way mishandling of this situation is entirely representative of this government’s skewed view on the ‘war on terror’.’

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