The Office for Students has recently published Prevent monitoring data.
Some emerging themes are:
- The number of referrals to Channel is small but increasing.
In 2019-20, there were 37 instances where cases were formally referred to Channel, a year on year increase from 24 instances in 2018-19 and 15 in 2017-18.
However numbers remain low given the total number of institutions (300 in 2019/20) 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.
- 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 2019-20 and 2018-19 combined, the total number of events or speaker requests rejected for Prevent-related reasons was fewer than five. Overall, the number of events or speaker requests rejected in 2019-20 was 94, with 43,337 events approved. In 2018-19, 141 events were rejected with 59,782 requests approved.
Despite the large number of events and speaker requests being approved, the Universities Minister has referred to “the growing chilling effect on our campuses which is silencing and censoring students, academics and visiting speakers.” A recent press release from the Office for Students states that “The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will bring in new measures that will require universities and colleges registered with the Office for Students to defend free speech and help stamp out unlawful ‘silencing’.”