The 4 key principles of The UK Counter terrorism strategy (CONTEST) are:
We prevent vulnerable people from being drawn into extremism.
We pursue terrorists and work to bring them to justice.
We protect the public and places from terrorist attacks.
We prepare to respond to attacks and reduce their impact.
Prevent is part of the UK Government CONTEST strategy that aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
Within universities Prevent is viewed as part of the overall safeguarding approach to an individual who is considered to be vulnerable, in this case from being drawn into terrorism.
Robert Gordon University has established a Prevent Working Group that will support the University comply with its statutory responsibility. For our University the initial focus was on Prevent and now we are active in relation to Protect.
RGU will respond to the Prevent Duty via an open and collaborative approach, involving representatives from across our academic, professional services, students and faith communities.
What is Prevent?
Like other public bodies, Universities have a legal duty to “have due regard to prevent people from being drawn in to terrorism”. This legal duty is called the ‘Prevent duty’
Prevent is about safeguarding people and communities from the threat of terrorism; and a Working Group has been established to ensure the university is doing everything it can to safeguard staff and students. It is 1 of the 4 elements of CONTEST, the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, and aims to stop people becoming involved with or supporting terrorist or extremist activity.
What is extremism?
There are many definitions of extremism however it is generally considered to be the holding of extreme political or religious views. Extremism affects individuals and communities, and can be a catalyst for alienation and disaffection, potentially leading to violence. Extremist organisations can develop and popularise ideas and views which create an environment conducive to violence or terrorism.
What is radicalisation?
We often hear on the news of people that have been radicalised and drawn into terrorist groups, but what does that mean? In simple terms radicalisation is the process of someone developing extremist views.
The role of the University
The University has a duty to safeguard anyone believed to be at risk of being drawn into extremist or terrorist activity whether it relates to Islamist extremist ideology, extreme right wing groups and organisations, sectarianism, animal rights organisations or groups linked to Northern Irish related terrorism. The University also has a duty to ensure staff, students and others are supported in how to respond to a concern through the provision of guidance, training and inter-agency working.
What’s my role?
Frontline staff play a key part in helping the University recognise and safeguard anyone they consider to be vulnerable to being drawn into extremism.
Staff frequently build relationships with students and colleagues and are therefore in a strong position to recognise a change in someone they suspect relates to radicalisation. It is important staff share their concern timeously with a colleague or supervisor, as well as one of the Universities Prevent points of contact who will provide guidance and support on next steps. Contacts and protocols are available in the Raising a concern - Reporting Protocol section for further guidance.
How would I recognise if a person is vulnerable or being radicalised?
There is no single route to radicalisation, and no one way of identifying whether or not someone is either at risk or in the process of being radicalised. It can occur quickly, or take place over a longer timeframe. Sometimes there are clear signs, and other times it might be subtle changes which are less obvious. If you know the person well, you may recognise changes in their behaviour or attitude which feel out of character to you and which are unusual for that person. The following are ONLY AN INDICATION of the types of changes which might give cause for concern.
- Changes to attitudes, views/opinions or behaviour
- A change in their groups of friends - who they hang about with
- Support for extreme groups – posters, leaflets lying around
- Decoration of bedrooms – flags, posters etc
- A change in appearance or dress
- A change in situations in their home country and their reaction to it
- A significant personal event – family crisis or other trauma
If you have any concerns please refer to Raising a concern - Reporting Protocol for further guidance.
The RGU Prevent Working Group has oversight of the development of policy and procedures for Prevent.
Although not a new strategy, the placing of Prevent on a new statutory footing (the Prevent Duty) means that RGU must carefully embed Prevent in such a way that it ensures continuing freedom of speech, expression and debate while fulfilling it’s responsibility to safeguard anyone who may be vulnerable to extremism. This work is ongoing however you may find the policy and guidance documents and in the Useful information and resources section helpful.
Policies and guidance documents
RGU is currently offering staff the opportunity to attend a Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP).
The workshop supports staff widen their understanding of Prevent and what their role would be if they are concerned about an individual. The session lasts an hour and a half and it is strongly recommended staff with regular contact with students should to attend.
To book your place on one of our Workshops please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Work is ongoing to finalise the referral process for Prevent concerns.
In the meantime, should you have a concern about an individual, you should share your concern timeously with a colleague or supervisor, or by emailing: email@example.com
Supporting free speech and the advancement of new ideas and open and free debate is fundamental to the role of universities.
However free speech is not an unqualified privilege, and the statutory obligations that support free speech and debate extend to external speakers.
The RGU Management of Speakers Policy outlines the practical steps that must be followed when inviting an external speaker onto campus.
The Universities UK External Speakers in Higher Education Institutions guidance also provides a framework for universities in managing external speakers, including those who may seek to express or promote extremist views:
Information on Prevent Lead, Prevent Coordinator, Prevent Working Group membership and Prevent SPOC’s in School, Departments, Campus Services, Institutes, Centres, RGU Sport etc
- UK CONTEST Strategy 2018
- UK Prevent Strategy 2018
- Run Hide Tell - Government advice on steps to take to keep safe in the rare event of a firearms or weapons attack
- Notice Check Share (video)
- NSPCC Protecting children from radicalisation – advice for adults worried about a young person
- The UK Government Prevent Strategy – Dr Mohammed Elshimi, Research Fellow, Royal United Services Institute examines Prevent