Not Saussure

November 17, 2006

Combatting campus extremism

Filed under: Education, UK, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 9:04 pm

Can anyone explain this to me? According to the Education Guardian,

As the government today released its guidance on tackling the promotion of “extremism in the name of Islam” in universities, Anthony Glees warned that more needed to be done to ensure students were entering universities for the appropriate reasons.

Professor Glees said that international students should be “vetted” to ensure they were not using study visas as way of gaining entry to the UK. All home students should be also interviewed in a similar way as students applying for Oxbridge, he said.

I accept it was probably the Guardian reporter’s infelicitous choice of words that makes Professor Glees appear to want to ensure that international students don’t actually want to come here, but what is one to make of the idea that all home applicants should be interviewed?

According to UCAS, a total of 444,630 UK-based applicants lodged 2,285,596 applications at British universities and colleges last year. Professor Glees’s university, Brunel, received 23399 applications. I don’t know how long an interview is supposed to take, but let’s say 30 minutes. Brunel University employs 572 academic staff, though, realistically, you’d presumably only have a small group in each department handling undergraduate applications. When on earth are they supposed to find the time to conduct all these interviews?

Certainly all the people I know who’re involved in university admissions barely find time to handle them under the present arrangements, let alone trying to interview everyone — much as they’d like to.

The Guardian report also discusses the government’s guidance, released today, on tackling the promotion of “extremism in the name of Islam ” in universities. I’ve only skimmed it, but it provides some scenarios, apparently ‘all based on real events that have occurred at universities and colleges in the UK’, along with ‘Issues to consider’; a typical example — typical particularly in that it’s a student or other third party bringing to the lecturer concerns about someone else’s behaviour rather than anything the lecturer has actually observed himself — is

A second year student who is a member of the Islamic Society affiliated to the Student Union has expressed concerns to a personal tutor that Society meetings have begun to turn more extreme under the influence of a number of individuals who have recently joined the society. The student has also expressed concerns about members being coerced into voting for these individuals to play key roles including president and treasurer of the Society in forthcoming elections. The tutor reported that the student was extremely anxious that her identity would remain confidential.
4.5.1 Issues to consider

  • Students have the right to freedom of expression and association and the HE provider cannot interfere with that right unless justified.
  • The HE provider must ensure the Students’ Union implements a complaints procedure.
  • A student should not be harassed or intimidated and educational institutions should robustly enforce their anti-bullying policies.
  • The HE provider and students union should have policies in place stating when and how the society can be sanctioned.
  • The HE provider’s religious advisors and student welfare officers could be consulted for further guidance.

I can see it’s a difficult situation, but I find it a bit worrying that neither this nor any of the other examples gives ‘How credible do you find the complaint and the complainant and how comfortable are you to rely on hearsay evidence?’ as issues to consider.

Bearing in mind the possible consequences for the students about whom the complaint is made (helpfully detailed in ‘An overview of the key legislation for HE providers to consider when dealing with violent extremism’, provided as an appendix to the document), I’d have thought those were serious considerations for any lecturer thinking of bringing his or her concerns to the attention of the police.

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