What Prevent Means to Higher Education Institutions

Higher education institutions have a duty of care to students, staff and visitors. The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 introduced a new statutory duty for higher education institutions to have "due regard to the need to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism". This means that institutions now have a statutory duty to engage with the government's Prevent agenda. The government has published guidance setting out what steps higher education institutions are expected to take to meet this duty.  The guidance is available in two forms; one for England and Wales and the other which is applicable in Scotland. 


Awareness of Prevent involves an understanding of the strategy itself and the wider legal context within which universities must operate including the Education Act (No.2) 1986, the Education Reform Act 1988 and the Equality Act 2010. Details of all the legal considerations universities must consider can be found here


Universities must balance a wide-ranging set of responsibilities. Universities are open institutions with a legal obligation to promote and facilitate academic freedom and freedom of speech.  However, these are qualified rights. However, section 31 of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act states, that in meeting the statutory duty, higher education institutions must have particular regard to the duty to ensure freedom of speech  and the importance of academic freedom.  


A number of reports have examined the Prevent agenda and links to these can be found in the resources section. One such report is the Home Affairs Select Committee report (2012) on The roots of violent radicalisation which examined the role of public institutions including universities in preventing violent extremism.