Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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Colleges to play a greater role in promoting community cohesion and preventing extremism

Colleges to play a greater role in promoting community cohesion and preventing extremism

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release (2008/0014) issued by The Government News Network on 11 February 2008

Colleges have a responsibility to foster our shared values and protect their students and staff from those who wish to intimidate and promote violence, Bill Rammell, Minister for Further and Higher Education announced today.

The proposals are part of a consultation, published today, on the role of Further Education (FE) colleges in promoting community cohesion, fostering shared values and preventing violent extremism. The FE consultation mirrors the updated guidance issued to Higher Education institutions last month.

The Government's assessment is that the biggest current threat the UK faces is from Al Qa'ida-influenced terrorism. Our judgment is that the threat in FE Colleges is serious but not widespread. Government has been working with the Association of Colleges to develop the consultation which will lead to the first guidance to colleges on tackling extremism and promoting community cohesion.

The Further Education sector faces its own unique issues and challenges in fostering community cohesion, promoting our shared values and tackling violent extremism. FE intuitions are often at the heart of local communities and serve students diverse in terms of age and background.

This is the first time Government has made proposals on these issues and wishes to work closely with the FE sector in considering how best colleges can be supported to work towards a common understanding of their role.

Bill Rammell, Minister for Further and Higher Education, said:
"Our shared values which bind communities together belong to everyone in Britain; they are not possessed by any one race, creed or nationality. The Further Education sector's task is to foster these values in their institutions.

"Colleges have a unique role to play in fostering our shared values of openness, free debate and tolerance. Many colleges already play an important role in their communities and are ideally placed to expand their work into reinforcing shared values and protecting their students and staff from those who would seek to exploit the freedom we all benefit from in this country to promote violence or incite racial hatred."

Sue Dutton, Acting Chief Executive, Association of Colleges, said:

"Organisations such as colleges, schools and universities have a duty to their students and to society at large to promote community cohesion. These proposals contribute to continuing college efforts to take all appropriate action for fostering shared community values, including dealing with extremism in any form."

The consultation highlights five key areas, offering practical advice and issues for staff and students to consider. These are:
* Promoting and reinforcing shared values: creating space for free and open debate; and listening to and supporting mainstream voices;
* Breaking down segregation among different student communities: supporting inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue and engaging all students in playing a full and active role in wider engagement with society;
* Ensuring student safety and that campuses are free from bullying, harassment and intimidation;
* Providing support to vulnerable students and offering appropriate advice, guidance and sources of support to all staff and students;
* Ensuring staff and students are aware of their roles in preventing violent extremism.

Notes to editors:
1. To view the consultation, 'The role of further education providers in promoting community cohesion, fostering shared values and preventing violent extremism: consultation document' please visit, http://www.dius.gov.uk

2. The consultation will run for 12 weeks closing on 06 May 2008.

3. Updated guidance to Higher Education institutions was issued on 22 January and can be viewed at http://www.dius.gov.uk

4. In his speech on Liberty in November 2007, the Prime Minister called on the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham and the Minister of State, to lead the university sector in debate on how to maintain academic freedom while ensuring that extremists can never stifle debate or impose their views. In this context, the document focuses on the key role HE must take in fostering shared values through free, open debate, underpinned by tolerance. These shared values are one of the most important tools available, for tackling violent extremism.

5. The Government judges the main terrorist threat to the UK at this time to be from Al Qa'ida-influenced terrorism. It is for this reason that in this guidance, we specifically focus in some areas on this form of violent extremism and in other areas, all forms of violent extremism. We recognise that universities face similarly complex issues with regard to the activities of the extreme far right, animal rights activists, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia as well as wider issues of race, faith, sexual orientation and gender intolerance.

6. Academic Freedom forms a key strand of our policy in preventing violent extremism in both Higher and Further Education institutions. Bill Rammell gave a lecture on Academic Freedom at the Fabian Society on 27 November 2007. This can be viewed online at http://www.dius.gov.uk/speeches/rammell_fabiansociety_271107.html.

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