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Universities and colleges show compliance with Prevent duty

The Prevent duty aims to safeguard people from being drawn into terrorism. The Office for Students (OfS) monitors what higher education providers are doing comply with the duty, and mitigate any risks that may arise.

The findings are published today in an assessment of the 2019 monitoring programme, alongside a separate survey and evaluation of the OfS’s implementation of the Prevent framework.

Review meetings are used to gather evidence of how higher education providers are complying with the Prevent duty. The OfS undertook meetings with 35 providers between May and October 2019.

Four providers were selected as they were categorised as at an increased risk of non-compliance in the future and 28 were selected in a random representative sample. Three were selected because they were new to Prevent monitoring.

The exercise found that 28 out of 35 (80 per cent) providers demonstrated due regard to the duty. The remaining seven providers were found as ‘further actions needed’ to demonstrate due regard. Of these, three providers have now completed their action plans. None were found as not demonstrating due regard to the Prevent duty. The OfS is working with those providers that are ‘further actions needed’ to ensure that they demonstrate due regard.

Particular areas of feedback given to providers included ensuring that:

  • risk assessments contain sufficient information on local risks are tailored to the individual circumstances of higher education providers
  • staff continue to receive effective training that relates to the wider context of safeguarding awareness
  • welfare concerns are managed consistently and appropriately with clear understanding of how to make external referrals to specialist support agencies.

Of the 35 universities and colleges that took part in the review the OfS found no cause for concern that free speech was being undermined by Prevent in relation to external speakers policies.

In a separate evaluation of the Prevent monitoring framework, also published today, areas for development identified included ensuring effective communication between providers and the OfS, developing more examples of effective practice case studies to be shared across the sector, and the OfS working with the Department for Education (DfE) to update training packages available for universities and colleges.

The Prevent duty is the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 on specified authorities, in the exercise of their functions, to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

The full report of 2019 Prevent review meetings and a separate year one evaluation of the Prevent duty monitoring framework have been published on the OfS website.

To comply with the Prevent duty, providers need to:

  • Assess the risks associated with Prevent and draw up a plan to mitigate these
  • Have effective welfare support systems, linking to DfE Prevent coordinators, local authorities or the police if necessary 
  • Have systems for assessing and mitigating risks around external speakers and events on campus, while maintaining the existing duty to promote freedom of speech
  • Arrange ongoing Prevent training for relevant staff
  • Have an IT usage policy, and where appropriate a research policy, which cover the Prevent duty
  • Engage with students and ensure that students’ unions and societies are aware of policies concerning activities on campus.

The OfS also carried out thematic reviews on two areas of the Prevent duty: welfare case management, and staff training. It found examples of effective practice on managing welfare cases, and some examples where approaches taken could be more robust. It also found that providers had taken sound approaches to training staff and had ensured that key staff had been trained. However, there was little evidence of providers evaluating the effectiveness of staff training.

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