University chiefs face a four-day deadline to draw up plans to tackle radicalisation of students and prevent male-only events being held on campus, David Cameron will announce. They will also have a duty to ensure hardline speakers are only provided with a platform if they are challenged at the same event by someone with moderate views.
Statutory guidance for universities and colleges on combatting the spread of extremist ideology will come into force next Tuesday. They will be legally required to put in place specific policies to stop extremists radicalising students, to tackle gender segregation at events and to support students vulnerable to extremists. The guidance also obliges institutions to ensure they have appropriate IT policies, staff training and student welfare programmes in place to respond to signs of radicalisation.
The Government says universities hosted at least 70 events last year at which speakers espoused opinions which “aimed to undermine core British values of democracy”.
Similar proposals provoked a row between the Tories and Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government and led to warnings by universities that ministers risked eroding freedom of speech. The new rules stop short of earlier plans to require speakers to submit their comments in advance for vetting by university authorities. But they have been condemned as “chilling” by the National Union of Students and are opposed by the University and College Union, which represents lecturers and academics.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of his Extremism Taskforce, Mr Cameron said: “All public institutions have a role to play in rooting out and challenging extremism. It is not about oppressing free speech or stifling academic freedom, it is about making sure that radical views and ideas are not given the oxygen they need to flourish.
“Schools, universities and colleges have a duty to protect impressionable young minds and ensure our young people are given every opportunity to reach their potential.”
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