Credit: legalresearch.blogs.bris.ac.uk

Referrals to Prevent from universities considered low by independent reviewer

The Office of Students deemed this number of referrals to be consistent with past years.

An independent review of Prevent, the government anti-terrorism strategy, has found the number of referrals from higher education as “strikingly low”. However, the Office of Students said this number was consistent with years past. 

During the 2020-21 academic year, 47 total cases were formally referred to Prevent, 88 cases led to informal advice seeking from Prevent partners, and 139 cases led to Prevent involvement on some level, according to OfS Prevent monitoring summary of data returns. Between August 2016 and July 2017, only 24 cases from higher education were referred; a figure that William Shawcross, leader of the independent review, cited as particularly low. 

Shawcross’ review cites a spread of disinformation from anti-Prevent narratives, stating that these “dominate the discourse about Prevent in British universities.” Because of this, he writes in the review that he believes not all academics who support Prevent feel they can share their views. Included in the review is a section entitled, ‘The need to counter anti-Prevent campaigns’.

According to the review, positive changes in Prevent have included only making referrals when clear evidence of extremist behaviour is present, collaboration in further education and higher education when referring and building relationships with local police forces who can help to contextualise issues.

In his conclusion, Shawcross refers to the 2011 Prevent review, writing that it is disappointing to see continual mistakes on who engages with Prevent, and that there must be improvement in how Prevent acts against varying extremist behaviour. “Prevent will not be able to fully meet its objectives if it sets a high bar for when it intervenes to counter one type of extremism, but a lower bar when countering another,” Shawcross wrote. In total, the review delivered 34 recommendations for Prevent to implement. 

Home Secretary Suella Braverman stated that the government has implemented the recommendations introduced by the review, which she says stands as a blueprint for improving the response to terrorism and extremist ideologies. 

In the review’s foreword, Braverman wrote: “I will rid Prevent of any cultural timidity so that it meets every threat head on and does more to identify and challenge non-violent extremism,” Braverman continued in her foreword. “It is also clear from the review that Prevent needs to better understand the prevalence of antisemitism across ideologies and do more to combat it.”

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Shawcross, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, who was commissioned to perform the review in 2021, wrote his research found that what Prevent deemed as extremist Islamist ideology was “drawn to narrowly,” and that threat from extreme right-wing groups
“are too broad”. 

Prevent, a government counter-terrorism strategy, was created in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 in an attempt to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”, according to the University of Glasgow website

Positive changes in Prevent include only making referrals when clear evidence of extremist behaviour is present, collaboration in further education and higher education when referring and building relationships with local police forces who can help to contextualise issues relating to Prevent, according to the review

“Prevent has become overly focused on addressing vulnerabilities rather than protecting the public from those who willingly support extremism,” Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, wrote in her foreword in The response to the Independent Review of Prevent

Shawcross’ review cites a spread of disinformation from anti-Prevent narratives, stating that these “dominate the discourse about Prevent in British universities.” 

Because of this, Shawcross wrote in the review that he believes not all academics who support Prevent feel they can share their views. Shawcross included a section in the review titled, ‘The need to counter anti-Prevent campaigns’.

In his conclusion, Shawcross refers to the 2011 Prevent review, writing that it is disappointing to see continual mistakes on who engages with Prevent, and that there must be improvement in how Prevent acts against varying extremist behaviour.

“Prevent will not be able to fully meet its objectives if it sets a high bar for when it intervenes to counter one type of extremism, but a lower bar when countering another,” Shawcross wrote. 

Braverman wrote that the government implemented the recommendations introduced by the review, and the review stands as a blueprint for improving the response to terrorism and extremist ideologies. 

“I will rid Prevent of any cultural timidity so that it meets every threat head on and does more to identify and challenge non-violent extremism,” Braverman continued in her foreword. “It is also clear from the review that Prevent needs to better understand the prevalence of antisemitism across ideologies and do more to combat it.”

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