Higher education institutions have a duty of care to students, staff and visitors. The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 introduced a new statutory duty in September 2015 for higher education institutions to have "due regard to the need to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism". This means that institutions now have a statutory duty to engage with the government's Prevent agenda.
Universities must balance a wide-ranging set of responsibilities. Universities are open institutions with a legal obligation to promote and facilitate academic freedom and freedom of speech. However, these are qualified rights. Section 31 of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act states, that in meeting the statutory duty, higher education institutions must have particular regard to the duty to ensure freedom of speech and the importance of academic freedom.
Writtle University College coordinates Prevent work under the umbrella of safeguarding and has a Single Point of Contact for Prevent (SPOC). To ensure compliance with the duty, WUC has, and continues to:
- Assess risk of radicalisation in our area/institution;
- Develop and progress an action plan to reduce this risk;
- Train staff to recognise radicalisation and extremism;
- Work in partnership with other agencies;
- Develop referral mechanisms and refer people to Channel;
- Maintain records and reports to show compliance;
- Promote British Values;
- Update relevant policies and procedures (including the IS&T Policy & External Speakers Policy).
The University College has developed good links with external partners and members of the safeguarding team understand when it is appropriate to make a referral to the Channel programme. Channel is a programme which focuses on providing support at an early stage to people who are identified as being vulnerable to be drawn into terrorism.