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Universities: Antisemitism

Question for Department for Education

UIN 161675, tabled on 2 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many English universities have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of antisemitism; and if he will list the universities that have not yet done so.

Answered on

10 March 2021

The government has asked all English higher education (HE) providers registered with the Office for Students (OfS) to adopt the working definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The IHRA definition is an important tool in tackling antisemitism. Adopting this widely recognised definition sends a strong signal that HE providers take these issues seriously. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, wrote to HE leaders most recently in October 2020 to reiterate the importance of the definition and to urge all providers to consider adopting it.

The government is pleased to report that at least 91 providers have now adopted the definition, with many more preparing to adopt it. We know that other providers are in the process of considering adoption.

The decision on adoption of the definition rests with individual providers, but the government will continue to urge them to adopt the definition and ensure that HE is a genuinely fulfilling and welcoming experience for everyone.

I am proud that so many providers have taken a positive step towards eradicating antisemitism by adopting the definition since the Secretary of State for Education’s letter, but further progress is still needed to stamp it out. This is why, in the Secretary of State for Education’s most recent strategic guidance letter, the government asked the OfS to undertake a scoping exercise, to identify providers which are reluctant to adopt the definition. The letter asked them to consider introducing mandatory reporting of antisemitic incident numbers by providers, with the aim of ensuring a robust evidence base, which the OfS can then use to effectively regulate in this area.

The Secretary of State for Education also asked the OfS to ensure that, if antisemitic incidents do occur at a provider, they should consider if it is relevant in a particular case whether the provider has adopted the IHRA definition when considering what sanctions, including monetary penalties, would be appropriate to apply.

We will continue to work across the government to ensure that racism and religious hatred of any kind is not tolerated anywhere, including in our world-leading universities.