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Lecturers 'must block extremism'

17 September 07 08:57 GMT

Lecturers should back the government's efforts to prevent Islamic extremism in universities.

Universities Secretary, John Denham, says students should be helped to stand up to extremist "intimidation".

And he says that universities should help students to build bridges towards a more "cohesive society".

A lecturers' union had rejected government calls for universities to monitor campus extremism as creating a "quasi secret service".

'Misplaced'

"The opposition from the University and College Union was misplaced," said Mr Denham.

"Everybody understands the nature of the threat that we face, which is a threat to people involved in higher education as much as anyone else.

"What we want is to have institutions in which there is lively debate and engagement on all current issues from all students," he said.

"All we are trying to do is to make sure that everybody has the strength to ensure that people are not recruited to the sort of organisations which are promoting and organising violence of whatever sort.

"And secondly that students are supported in standing up to that and certainly not subject themselves to intimidation and violence."

Rejected

The UCU lecturers' union voted unanimously to reject the government's calls for universities to help monitor Islamic extremism within the student population.

The government had published guidance encouraging staff to be vigilant against violent extremism, unacceptable literature or guest speakers.

Lecturers warned that such an approach amounted to asking lecturers to spy on their students.

And in response to Mr Denham's comments, a union spokesperson said that "campus harmony is achieved by openness, tolerance and dialogue and not focusing on any particular group of students".

In 2005, Professor Anthony Glees wrote a report warning that extremists were operating on campuses. He said the problem must not be ignored.

"A significant number of people, either convicted of terrorist offences or who have admitted a guilt or who've been murdered or killed in the carrying out of their terrorist offences, have been students at British universities and colleges."

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