President of UCL- to ask university professors to look out for extremists is “stupid”
Categories: Latest News
Wednesday October 12 2011
|In an interview with Martin Bentham of the Evening Standard, Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of University College London, once more criticises the government’s Prevent strategy, the mistaken causal relationship assumed to exist between universities and the propensity to commit an act of terror, and the suggestion that university staff should be trained to “recognise the signs of radicalisation.”
Speaking on the Government’s latest counter-terrorism strategy and its insistence that universities must do more to look for potential extremists, Professor Grant argues:
“That was just stupid,”
“It was stupid to say that of those convicted of terrorism offences, more than 30 per cent had been to university, and to suggest that there was a link. It is simply a reflection of the fact that a large proportion of the population have been to university. There seems to be no evidence of a causal connection between attendance at university and engagement in religiously inspired violence.
“No one should imagine that universities can substitute for the intelligence services. Not only is it impractical, but it also cuts across the important personal relationship between the student and the tutor.
“You shouldn’t be clamping down on ordinary rights of assembly and discussion in an open society. These are very important values inherent in the very idea of university and the development of ideas.”
His views were echoed by Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, who in an interview with the Daily Telegraph argued that the presumption of a causal relationship between academic and campus freedom and radicalization was not borne out by the facts.
Grant tells the ES that “the “law is quite tight” on hate speech and inciting violence and that the university would step in if it felt that such offences were taking place.”
He challenges those who contest his claims to visit UCL and speak to its Muslim and Jewish students.
Professor Grant has been an outspoken critic of government counter-terrorism policies and the call for academic staff to spy on students. He chaired the working group which produced the report, “Freedom of speech on campus,” which called for more engagement with extreme political views, and the Caldicott Inquiry, which investigated the radicalisation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
The Caldicott Inquiry concluded that Abdulmutallab’s radicalisation occurred after his leaving UCL and during his stay in Yemen.
Despite evidence to contrary, there remains a body of opinion which insists on pushing the “universities are hotbeds of extremism” argument. Notably, Professor Anthony Glees who told the Henry Jackson Society that, “universities and colleges have allowed themselves to become sites where extremist views and radicalisation can flourish beyond the sight of academics.”