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Universities: Antisemitism

Department for Education written question – answered on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether universities in England and Wales (1) have breached the public sector equality duty, and (2) are compliant with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, by permitting Israeli Apartheid Week activities to take place on their campuses.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

There is no place in our society - including within higher education (HE) – for hatred or any form of harassment, discrimination or racism, including antisemitism. The government will continue to work with universities to ensure we stamp out antisemitism in all its forms.

The government expects HE providers to take their responsibilities, including those under the Equality Act 2010 (including the Public Sector Equality Duty) and to promote freedom of speech, seriously. We expect HE providers to have robust policies and procedures in place to meet, and balance, their legal obligations effectively and to investigate and swiftly address reports of hate crime, including any antisemitic incidents that are reported.

We expect HE providers to have clearly set out procedures and policies for events and the hosting of external speakers, which allow for open, transparent events, challenge and debate and ensure that lawful speech can occur on campuses. Under the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, HE providers have a legal duty to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for their members, students, employees of the establishment and visiting speakers.

In relation to events occurring under the banner of Israeli Apartheid Week, it is crucial that HE providers handle these appropriately, taking into account their legal obligations to ensure that our values, expectations and laws are upheld.

The government strongly encourages HE providers to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. It is an important tool in tackling antisemitism and a strong signal that HE providers take these issues seriously.

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