Prevent and the law
Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a duty on specified authorities – including most higher education institutions – to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This is commonly referred to as the ‘Prevent duty’.
The Act also requires those authorities to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State in meeting the Prevent duty. That guidance (Prevent Duty Guidance: for higher education institutions in England and Wales) identifies various areas that require policies and procedures, properly followed and applied, from relevant higher education bodies (RHEBs).
The Act makes clear that RHEBs must balance their duties under Prevent with their legal requirements in relation to freedom of speech and academic freedom, as enshrined in other legislation. Freedom of expression is itself an important means to challenge and prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.
The University and individual Cambridge Colleges (as autonomous, self-governing bodies) are required by law to comply with the Prevent duty. The governance and operational structures that need to be in place across the collegiate University to achieve this are currently being considered, although members of the University should be mindful that there are already measures in place to mitigate many of the risks described.
Prevent and safeguarding at Cambridge
It is important to note that specified authorities have considerable freedom in terms of how they implement their responsibilities under the Prevent duty, and it is the University’s intention to take a proportionate and risk-based approach to these matters.
Both the University and the Colleges have well established arrangements in place to mitigate a number of the drivers of criminal extremism and promote positive, respectful relations among its students and staff. Our well established diversity networks, the role of the University Chaplain and the investment in faith-related facilities play an important role in this regard. So too does the close level of pastoral care provided by College tutors, nurses, counsellors and other support staff. Students at Cambridge also benefit from many student-run networks, including those provided by the two student unions and others in individual Colleges.
The University is committed to staff and student wellbeing, has many support services available and is renowned for the richness and diversity of cultural activities provided to its members and the public.
Other procedures and guidance – for example, in relation to the appropriate use of IT equipment, University branding, and social media – are likely to require minor updating in light of the Prevent duty becoming law.
How is the University responding?
The University has established a Prevent Committee – a joint committee of the General Board and the Council – to oversee its response to Prevent.
Work is underway to refresh certain policies and procedures as part of the action plan that we will need to submit to HEFCE, the body responsible for monitoring compliance with the duty. This includes, among other things, reviewing training provision for security staff and those in welfare roles, ensuring that we have an effective process of escalation in the unlikely situation that concerns about external speakers and events need to be considered, and raising awareness generally of the Prevent duty among different constituencies across collegiate Cambridge. These pages will be updated periodically to update the University on this work.
If you have any queries or concerns about any Prevent-related matter please email firstname.lastname@example.org