Lecturers at the University of Manchester have issued a statement warning that the Prevent programme threatens “the sanctity of academic freedoms and intellectual curiosity, as well as the ability of the University to provide an inclusive and locally relevant recruitment agenda.”
The Prevent programme requires ‘specified authorities’ including university staff to report any student activity they deem to be radical. “The Prevent agenda sets a unique precedence insofar,” the statement explains, “as it asks staff to identify indicators which might merely suggest a propensity to criminal (‘terrorist’) activity” as opposed to reporting actual criminal activity.
Objections to the programme have come from a range of university departments and the staff members themselves come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. University staff have criticised the programme for being “dangerously vague.” They raised concerns that lecturers will see it as their duty to“police moral and/or religious beliefs (i.e. conservatism) as well as critique of current foreign policy as practised by Western governments.”
The statement released last Thursday explains how the Prevent legislation compromises the role they serve as teachers. They deem the programme impractical as it suggests that academic staff will need to perform surveillance roles. As a whole, they feel the legislation is jeopardising the integrity of academic institutions.
One of the biggest issues raised within this debate was the effect this programme could have on Muslim students. Lecturers expressed concern that the policies run a high risk of criminalising all students perceived to be Muslim. As a result, many fear that the recruitment of Muslim students to the university will be threatened.
Dr Bethan Harries of the University of Manchester’s Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity and Sociology tells The Mancunion: “We are concerned that the sense of trust between staff and students will be compromised and Muslim students will be placed under greater scrutiny when they are already in a marginalised position.”
A BBC investigation has found the number of referrals to the anti-radicalisation programme to have doubled over the past year. This has been paralleled by an increasing concern over the policies from academics, other universities and teaching staff throughout the country.
As a result of their concerns, University of Manchester staff have urged others who feel similarly to join their campaign by emailing [email protected].