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Higher Education: Antisemitism

Question for Department for Education

UIN 32299, tabled on 13 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the outcome was of the strategic guidance letter he issued to the Office of Students to identify higher education providers which have yet to adopt an internationally recognised definition of anti-semitism.

Answered on

19 July 2021

There is no place in our society, including within higher education (HE), for antisemitism. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition is an important tool in tackling antisemitism. Adopting the 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 the sector in October 2020, calling upon leaders to adopt the IHRA definition. He repeated this message in May, reinforcing the government's expectation that providers adopt the IHRA definition, stressing the even greater importance of doing so in light of increased number of antisemitic incidents recorded (as a result of the conflict in the Middle East). We are aware of over 100 HE providers which have now adopted the IHRA definition. This includes over 80 universities.

In his February 2021 strategic guidance letter, the Secretary of State also asked the Office for Students (OfS) to undertake a scoping exercise, to identify providers which are reluctant to adopt the definition. He 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. I meet regularly with the OfS, and they have assured me they are progressing work in response to Secretary of State's request, including in relation to a scoping exercise to identify higher education providers which have yet to adopt the IHRA definition.

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.

Adoption of the IHRA definition is only a first step, and while the government considers that adoption of the definition is crucial, it is not enough on its own. That is why I will continue to work with the sector to ensure it better understands antisemitism and does more to end it.

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