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Universities: Antisemitism

Question for Department for Education

UIN 75173, tabled on 15 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to tackle rising levels of anti-Semitic abuse on university campuses.

Answered on

22 November 2021

The government is clear that antisemitism is abhorrent, and we expect higher education (HE) providers to be at the forefront of tackling the challenge of it.

The department has pushed for several years for greater action from HE providers in addressing antisemitism. This has included encouraging institutions to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, in order to have clarity of what constitutes antisemitic behavior. This in turn enables providers to better understand and recognise incidences of antisemitism and take action to address them.

As part of this work, the former Secretary of State for Education wrote out to all HE providers urging adoption of the IHRA definition, stating that we would consider further action if institutions did not adopt. A follow-up letter was sent in May 2021, reinforcing the government's expectation that providers adopt the IHRA definition, stressing the even greater importance of doing so in light of an increased number of antisemitic incidents recorded as a result of the conflict in the Middle East.

In response to this, on 10 November 2021, the Office for Students published a list of providers who have adopted the definition. I am pleased to report good progress in the last year, an increase from around 30 to over 200 providers having adopted. This includes the vast majority of universities. I will continue to urge all providers to adopt.

Adoption of the IHRA definition is only a first step towards ridding HE of antisemitism. I want to be very clear that, while the government considers that adoption of the definition is crucial, it is not enough on its own. I will continue to work with the sector to ensure it better understands antisemitism and does more to end it. I intend to bring together key stakeholders from the sector to examine what more can be done to make Jewish students and staff feel safe on campus.

I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure it is eradicated from our world-leading providers.