International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance: Higher Education

Department for Education written question – answered at on 28 February 2024.

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Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the number of higher education institutions that have not adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Minister of State (Education)

Last week’s report by the Community Security Trust highlights the unprecedented increase in antisemitic incidents in higher education. All antisemitism is abhorrent and universities should have robust systems in place to deal with incidents of support for unlawful antisemitic abuse and harassment. This government takes antisemitism extremely seriously and is deeply concerned about the growth in incidents on campus since 7 October 2023. This is completely unacceptable. The department will not tolerate unlawful harassment or the glorification of terrorism. A link to the report can be found here: https://cst.org.uk/data/file/9/f/Antisemitic_Incidents_Report_2023.1707834969.pdf.

The government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. The department is pleased to see that as of 21 February 2024, 245 providers in England have adopted the definition, including the vast majority of universities. While adoption of the IHRA definition is not compulsory for universities, as they are autonomous, the department continues to strongly encourage providers to adopt the definition for universal clarity on what constitutes antisemitic behaviour. However, the department recognises that the IHRA definition alone is not enough. That's why the department is working to introduce the tackling antisemitism quality seal. This is a framework of measures that will allow universities to demonstrate support for Jewish students and staff. This quality seal is part of the package resulting from the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement announcement of an additional £7 million over three years to tackle antisemitism in education.

The Quality Seal is an award for universities demonstrating exemplary standards in addressing antisemitism. It encompasses policies related to communication with Jewish students, training programs, and robust complaint processes. The department has invited bids from capable organisations to implement this initiative. The deadline for bids is 7 March 2024 and the department aims to appoint a contractor in April 2024. A Tackling Antisemitism Champion, respected by both the Jewish community and higher education sector, will be appointed to help universities meet these standards and strengthen universities’ ability to deal with the rising levels of antisemitism on campuses. Additionally, funding allocated for combating antisemitism in education will support universities in achieving the required benchmarks.

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