A new report by The Henry Jackson Society explores the extreme speakers and events in the 2016-17 academic year. The Higher Education and Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has found that the majority of universities are satisfying the requirements of the Prevent duty statutory guidance. Yet despite this fact, a large number of events featuring extreme speakers continue to be promoted to students, and are held both on and off campuses.
This report reveals: There were 112 events featuring either an extreme speaker, or hosted by an extreme organization, targeted at students in the most recent academic year. Events were most common in February (29), March (35), and November (21), repeating a pattern seen in a previous Student Rights report ‘Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisaton Policy On Campus’ (2015). London was the region with the highest number of events (43), followed by the South East (21), Yorkshire and Humberside (12), and the West Midlands (9). The top eight institutions hosted 41.3% of the total number of events recorded in the 2016-17 academic year, with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) holding the most events (14). The six most prolific speakers accounted for 52.7% of the events.
These findings suggest that despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s claim that “enough is enough”, universities continue to be a vulnerable target for extreme speakers and organisations to promote their messages. Richard Black, the report’s author, stated: “Universities are upholding their legal duty towards Prevent. It is now necessary to take a step forwards. Extreme speakers and organisations have been regularly holding events on campuses, and advertising them to students through social media pages. In most instances, these events have been unbalanced in nature, meaning that speakers are disseminating their views without being challenged. Only a joint effort by university staff, students, event organisers and practitioners from across civil society will ensure that extremism is challenged robustly.”