Prevent duty
Prevent students from becoming terrorists

Section 26(1) of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 requires public bodies, including universities, to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

"Extremism" is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. Extremism also includes calls for the death of members of British armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.

The Government's Prevent Strategy focuses on non-violent "extremism", which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists exploit.

Universities and other higher education bodies, when deciding whether or not to host a particular speaker, must have due regard to the Government's Prevent Duty Guidance: for higher education institutions in England and Wales, which requires them to consider carefully whether the views likely to be expressed are extremist. (The fact that a prospective speaker has previous expressed extremist views is not conclusive proof that he will do so at the event under consideration.)

In order to comply with the Prevent duty all universities should have policies and procedures in place for the management of events on campus and use of all university premises. The policies should apply to all staff, students and visitors and clearly set out what is required for any event to proceed. (This requirement is on page 3 of the Prevent Duty Guidance.)

If extremist views are likely to be expressed, the event should not be allowed to proceed unless universities are entirely convinced that the risk can be fully mitigated without cancelling the event. Mitigating the risk could mean ensuring that speakers with extremist views that could draw people into terrorism are challenged with opposing views as part of the same event, rather than in a separate forum.

Where universities are in any doubt that the risk cannot be fully mitigated they should exercise caution and not allow the event to proceed.