Regent’s VC joins call for university exemption on counter-terror bill

Regent’s University London’s Professor Aldwyn Cooper has joined 24 other UK Vice Chancellors in expressing their ‘profound concern’ over the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords this week.

In a joint letter appearing in today’s (28 January, 2015) edition of The Times, the vice chancellors jointly criticise the proposed bill, arguing that universities’ existing legal obligations mean they are already supporting the government’s Prevent Strategy to counter terrorism and radicalisation.

The letter continues: “Universities are at their most effective in preventing radicalisation by ensuring that academics and students are free to question and test received wisdom within the law.

“The bill is not the best means of maximising the contribution universities can make, and may indeed be counterproductive, causing mistrust and alienation.

“The government does not appear to have considered how the bill will relate to universities’ existing codes of practice concerning freedom of speech and academic freedom.”

Adding that universities should be exempt from the new statutory duty, the vice chancellors conclude that such an approach “would safeguard the unique status of universities as places where lawful ideas can be voiced and debated without fear of reprisal.”

Professor Cooper commented: “Regent’s is a truly international university where we encourage the exchange of ideas and want informed debate between people from different cultural backgrounds to flourish. The Government’s proposals risk undermining freedom of speech on university campuses and require a serious rethink.”