To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what steps he is taking with university vice chancellors to encourage action to prevent threats of physical violence against Jewish students and connected parties.
16 March 2016
There is no place in our society, including higher education, for bigotry, hatred and any form of racism such as anti-Semitism. We expect universities to act swiftly to investigate and address any anti-Semitic incidents reported to them.
Responsibility for ensuring students do not face harassment, abuse or violence rests with individual institutions, as a clear part of their duties under the 2010 Equality Act.
The higher education sector is committed to tackling discrimination and challenging intolerance on campus. Bodies such as Universities UK (UUK), Guild HE and the Equality Challenge Unit provide support to institutions to help discharge their responsibilities through the provision of practical guidance, discussion and networking events to help share best practice across the sector.
In addition, at the request of the Government, UUK have set up a task force to consider what more can be done to address harassment on campus, including on the basis of religion and belief. The Union of Jewish Students are part of the wider advisory group.
It was extremely disappointing that a recent event organised by the Kings College Israel Society was disrupted by aggression and violent scenes. Kings College have undertaken a review of what happened and have implemented some changes to their procedures as a result. It is completely unacceptable for legitimate free speech to be shut down on our universities campuses through intimidation and harassment and we will continue to fully support university leaders who take a strong stance on this.
I recently wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford to raise my concerns about reports of anti-Semitic behaviour by members of the Oxford University Labour Club and to reiterate that universities have a clear responsibility to ensure the safety of all their students and to seek her reassurance that the allegations are being fully investigated.
The Prevent Duty, introduced in September 2015, requires institutions to risk assess events and speakers and put in place whatever mitigation is required to ensure that events are protected from those trying to prevent free speech. It is important that universities protect the core values of freedom of speech and academic enquiry but also take seriously the risks associated with any form of extremism at universities.