Lecturers Union agrees to boycott Prevent

The University and College Union (UCU) has condemned the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 and agreed to boycott the Government's Prevent agenda in colleges and universities. The motion below was passed at the UCU Congress on 24 May 2015.

Campaigning against the counter-terrorism and security bill (paragraphs 3.1-3.3)

62  Composite: Prevent duty and anti-terrorism - Black Members' Standing Committee, Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Committee, Birkbeck University of London, Southern Regional Committee, Birmingham City University, East Midlands Regional Committee

The Prevent Agenda, formulated by the Labour government to tackle 'extremism', became part of the counter terrorism and security bill under the coalition government. Congress notes with concern the Home Secretary's announcement that the Bill will include a statutory duty upon universities, colleges and other providers of education to have regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

Congress deplores that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 has been passed, despite opposition from our union, the NUS and fellow unions. We applaud UCU's campaign against the bill and in defence of academic freedom. But the campaign must not stop here. We are concerned that the new legislation will lead to more visits by Prevent and police officers to HE/FE campuses, creating a climate of fear, interfering with education and damaging good relations between staff and students. Our branches need advice and support in handling such visits in future.

Congress notes the counter-terrorism and security bill will:

  1. require education providers to implement measures preventing radicalisation leading to terrorist acts
  2. require educational institutions to 'partner' with local authorities in referring at-risk individuals
  3. employ vague, broad definitions of terrorism, including 'non-violent extremism', potentially applying to many forms of activism
  4. require Ofsted to police these measures.

Congress further notes:

  1. the push towards the promotion of 'British Values' in the curriculum which has now become an OFSTED target coupled with a requirement for lecturers to 'protect learners against radicalisation and extremism'
  2. the dangerous misuse of much needed safeguarding initiatives in our institutions to push a racist and Islamophobic narrative
  3. concerns raised by the UCU; student societies; a letter signed by over 500 academics.

Congress condemns this attack on academic freedom and confirms that staff must and will not be forced to police student opinion on behalf of the state, nor to act as informers for the state in matters of student belief.

Congress believes that:

  1. this seriously threatens academic freedom and freedom of speech
  2. the broad definition of terrorism will stifle campus activism
  3. the intention to force our members to be involved in the racist labelling of students is unacceptable
  4. the Prevent Agenda will force our members to spy on our learners, is discriminatory towards Muslims, and legitimises Islamophobia and xenophobia, encouraging racist views to be publicised and normalised within society
  5. the monitoring of Muslim students will destroy the trust needed for a safe and supportive learning environment and encourage discrimination against BME and Muslim staff and students
  6.  the Prevent agenda will help racist parties such as UKIP to flourish.

Congress calls on the NEC to:

  1. actively campaign against the use of the Agenda in FE and HE institutions and register with government in the strongest terms UCU's absolute opposition to any staff involvement in state surveillance
  2. campaign with civil liberties and human rights organisations, the NUS and other education unions to oppose these measures and campaign for the abolition of the Prevent Agenda
  3. lobby MPs to repeal the Prevent Agenda
  4. survey all branches to monitor how the Agenda is being used and whether our members are being forced to implement it
  5.  Provide detailed guidance to branches on how to respond to visits from Prevent and police officers and on the rights of staff to decline to cooperate with them
  6.  issue guidance to branches on resisting these measures and raising questions about the implications for race equality, academic freedom and freedom of speech
  7.  reaffirm our opposition to Islamophobia and racism in all its forms
  8.  organise a boycott of the implementation of the Prevent Agenda in colleges and universities.

Congress:

  1. supports the 13 June 2015 conference, 'Preventing Violent Extremism?', being co-organised by civil liberties groups: Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), ihrc.org.uk, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), www.campacc.org.uk and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, www.haldane.org
  2. asks UCU to co-sponsor the conference and to offer its national HQ as a possible venue
  3. asks UCU to circulate an announcement encouraging all branches to send delegates.