Universities: Antisemitism and Islamophobia

Department for Education written question – answered at on 21 March 2024.

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Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps she is taking to help reduce cases of (a) anti-Semitism and (b) Islamophobia on university campuses.

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

This government condemns in the strongest possible terms any form of racial or religiously motivated harassment or violence. In the context of the conflict in the Middle East, there have been unprecedented rises in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents, which are abhorrent on every level. Universities should be welcoming and inclusive environments and higher education (HE) providers have a responsibility to take a zero tolerance approach to any form of racial or religious harassment. They have clear responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 to adopt robust policies and procedures that enable them to investigate and swiftly address reports of racism.

The Community Security Trust has reported an unprecedented rise in antisemitic incidents, which is totally unacceptable.

To support Jewish students, the Secretary of State for Education and I wrote to all universities on 11 October 2023, urging them to respond swiftly to hate-related incidents and actively reassure Jewish students that they can study without fear of harassment or intimidation. I wrote again to Vice Chancellors on 16 November 2023, emphasising that they must use disciplinary measures wherever appropriate, highlighting the importance of police engagement, and reiterating that student visas could be suspended where a foreign national is found to have committed or incited acts of racial hatred. This was one of the key actions set out in the five-point plan for tackling antisemitism in HE, which was published on 5 November 2023. The plan also involves:

  • ​Calling for visas to be withdrawn from international students who incite racial hatred. Visas are a privilege, not a right, and the government will not hesitate to remove them from people who abuse them.
  • ​Logging specific cases and sharing them with the Office for Students for their consideration.
  • ​Continuing to make it clear in all discussions that acts that may be criminal should be referred to the police.
  • ​Establishing a Tackling Antisemitism Quality Seal which will be an award available to universities who can demonstrate the highest standards in tackling antisemitism.

On 22 November 2023, the government announced in the Autumn Statement an additional £7 million over three years to tackle antisemitism in education. The Quality Seal will be the cornerstone of this package for universities, providing a framework of measures that will make clear what good practice is in tackling antisemitism in HE, and making sure that universities are a safe and welcoming space for Jewish students and staff, as for all students and staff.

Anti-Muslim hatred is equally abhorrent and has no place in our society. No one should ever be a victim of hatred because of their religion or belief and the government is continuing to work with police and community partners to monitor and combat it.

This government is proud to have funded Tell MAMA, a service that supports victims of anti-Muslim hatred, with over £6 million since their inception in 2012. Tell MAMA’s work has been recognised internationally as a good practice model in recording and monitoring anti-Muslim hate. The organisation has documented 2,010 Islamophobic incidents in the UK between 7 October 2023 and 7 February 2024. This represents a steep rise from the 600 it recorded for the same period the year previously. The government will not tolerate religious hatred towards Muslims and that is why the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities put in place an extra £4.9 million of protective security funding for Muslim mosques, faith schools and communities.

The new Protective Security for Mosques Scheme provides physical protective security measures (such as CCTV, intruder alarms and secure perimeter fencing) in both mosques and associated Muslim faith community centres. Protective security measures are also available to Muslim faith schools. Headteachers of eligible schools were contacted directly by the Home Office in January 2023 to register their interest.

Lastly, as my right hon. Friend, Minister Buchan stated on 4 March 2024, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities plan to appoint a new independent adviser on anti-Muslim hatred, and it will update the house shortly.

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