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Students: Religion

Question for Department for Education

UIN 1726, tabled on 28 June 2017

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what guidance has been published on supporting religious minorities studying at university.

Answered on

7 July 2017

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have responsibilities to support their students, ensuring that they do not face harassment, abuse or violence. They are expected to comply with their legal duties under the Equality Act 2010.

The Government published general guidance on the Equality Act 2010 (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance). Specific guidance for HEIs is produced by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) which supports equality and diversity for staff and students in HEIs across the UK. Their publications include guidance on the implications for HEIs of the Equality Act 2010 which is available online (www.ecu.ac.uk/guidance-resources/equality-legislation/) and guidance on supporting the practice and expression of religion and belief amongst staff and students (http://www.ecu.ac.uk/guidance-resources/inclusive-environment/providing-support/religion-belief/).

In September 2015 the Government asked Universities UK (UUK) to set up a Harassment Taskforce, composed of university leaders, student representatives and academic experts, to consider what more can be done to address harassment on campus, including on the basis of religion and belief. The taskforce published its report, ‘Changing the Culture’, on 21 October 2016 which makes clear recommendations about steps universities can take to ensure an effective and tailored response to hate crime or harassment based on an individual’s religious belief and recommends that institutions adopt a zero-tolerance approach. (http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2016/changing-the-culture.pdf#search=taskforce).

The Higher Education and Research Act (2017) enables, for the first time, an alternative student finance product to be offered. This would be equivalent to a student loan but will be consistent with the principles of Islamic finance, and should help support equality of opportunity.