Academics’ union UCU rejected criticism from new Universities Secretary John Denham on Sunday over its refusal to “inform” on Islamic students.
At the union’s conference this spring, delegates overwhelmingly voted to oppose the government’s guidance to universities on how to deal with so-called “radicals” who try to recruit students.
In the guidance last year, ministers urged universities to work with the police to “isolate and challenge the very small minority who promote violent extremism in the name of Islam.” It advised universities how to identify Muslim students suspected of being radicalised by preachers or rogue Islamist societies on campus.
UCU delegates condemned what lecturers described as a “witch-hunt” in which ministers wanted them to “inform on” their students.
But Mr Denham claimed on Sunday that “the opposition from the University and College Union was misplaced. Everybody understands the nature of the threat that we face, which is a threat to people involved in higher education as much as anyone else,” he declared. “All we are trying to do is to make sure that everybody has the strength to ensure that people are not recruited to the sort of organisations which are promoting and organising violence of whatever sort.”
However, a UCU spokesman stressed that the union’s views had not changed since the government’s original guidance was published in November 2006. He said that lecturers supported the view that “campus harmony is achieved by openness, tolerance and dialogue and not focusing on any particular group of students.” UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Lecturers want to teach students. If they wanted to police them, they would have joined the force.”
Morning Star, 17 September 2007
See also BBC News, 17 September 2007