Themes from the OfS Prevent monitoring data for 2021-2022

The Office for Students has published its Prevent monitoring data for 2021/2022.

Broad themes are:

  • As in previous years, the number of referrals to Channel is small but increasing. 

In 2021-22 there were 55 referrals to Channel, a year on year increase from 47 in 2020-21, 37 in 2019-20, 24 in 2018-19, and 15 in 2017-18. 

However numbers remain low given the total number of institutions (325 in 2021-22) and their students covered by the returns.  Contrast for instance 84,419 and 94,428 welfare cases referred for specialist advice and support in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively (noting this data no longer forms a part of the return).

  • The number of events and speakers approved by institutions remains high, with low rates of refusal for any reason, and very low rates of refusal for Prevent related reasons. 

In 2021-22 the number of events or speaker requests rejected for Prevent related reasons was less than or equal to 2, in 2020-21 the number was zero.  In 2019-20 and 2018-19 combined it was fewer than five.  Overall, the number of events or speaker requests rejected in 2021-22 was 260, with 31,545 events or speakers approved via an external speakers process. 

Despite the large number of events and speaker requests being approved, and a rejection rate of less than 1% (some for health and safety or other reasons, with the majority refused for procedural reasons), OfS has commented:

“While this data suggests that the overwhelming majority of events with external speakers went ahead as planned – which is welcome – the data may not provide the full picture. The data does not capture decisions not to invite speakers in the first place or voluntary withdrawal of requests for approval. We recognise that this could be masking cases where event organisers or speakers feel unable to proceed with the event they had planned.”

“As a result of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023 the OfS will be taking on new powers, and the universities and colleges we regulate will have additional responsibilities to take steps to protect and promote freedom of speech within the law. We have a range of powers to intervene if we identify concerns that universities and colleges are rejecting invited speakers who wish to express lawful views, even if those views are challenging or seen as offensive by some.”

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