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The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.
As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.
The Office for Students is leaving it up to universities to decide on particular approaches to the Coronavirus pandemic rather than issuing specific guidance, and has promised to minimises its regulatory demands on the sector in response to the crisis.
A study has found substantial differences in degree attainment by students' religion or belief.
As radicalisation on campus hits the headlines again with news of the identity and university education of Islamic State executioner "Jihadi John", the Reverend Dr Paul Fitzpatrick, chaplain and Prevent co-ordinator at Cardiff Metropolitan University, outlines protocols developed by his institution to tackle radicalisation that have been approved by the Home Office and are to be rolled out to universities across the UK.
Even before the publication of the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, there were at least seven - often contradictory - legislative requirements placed on universities for tackling extremism on campus.
At Cardiff Met, we quickly realised that there was little current research that directly helped us design and implement our own Prevent agenda and policies. So we as a team would need to conduct our own research, particularly exploring how vulnerable students were groomed and radicalised.
From our research we have developed a Prevent policy that will be run out across Wales, and then templated by the Home Office for England. It is the result of a realistic understanding of the individual risk to our universities.
The process and policies in the framework we have produced have to encompass the mundane as well as the difficult.
This week, for instance, I met a Muslim student to talk about her project on terrorist risk management within public events. Using the protocols set out in our Prevent policy, I guided her through the process of applying for ethical approval and registered her work with our ‘Security Sensitive Databased” to ensure her safety and the reputational security of the university.
In another example of the Prevent policy in action, I recently asked the International Office Welfare Team to review the list of students from conflict zones. Students from such areas are regarded as particularly vulnerable to potential radicalisation and manipulation.
One of the team had just got back from visiting the flat of a group of Ukrainian and Russian students who have deliberately chosen to live together to express their mutual respect and their support for peace keeping efforts in the region. She reported that all was well.
To give staff the tools to deal with these kinds of situations, we have developed a very broad and evidenced based training package for all staff. Underpinned by an e-module, the training is lecture based and includes the grooming process, risk assessment, radical ideology and a Police briefing on risk assessment. Staff are encouraged to engage fully with the process and initial feedback has been very positive.
It is a comfortable option to quote ‘free speech’ or moral/ethical complexity to justify none engagement with this agenda, and whilst acknowledging the real difficulties these dilemmas present, we have clearly chosen a different approach. Our response has been governed by what we consider to be our lead responsibility; the protection of our students and staff from those who would hurt them.
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