Universities must do more to stamp out antisemitism on campus and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, Universities Minister Chris Skidmore MP urged today.
The Minister has urged the sector to advance its efforts to tackle “unacceptable” religious hatred in higher education, and met with students on Thursday to hear about their concerns and experiences of antisemitism on campus.
The Jewish Leadership Council, Union of Jewish Students and Community Security Trust have raised reports of unfair practices in which Jewish societies have been asked to pay up to £2,000 for their own security at speaker events on campus, which the Universities Minister is concerned may amount to indirect discrimination.
Mr Skidmore said: “There is no place in our society for hatred or any form of harassment and it is frankly appalling that the battle against antisemitism still exists”.
He emphasised: “Free speech is vital to the independence and innovation that embodies the higher education sector and it must be protected… In this context, it is unacceptable to oblige certain groups of students to incur additional costs because of their race or religion, just to counteract the actions of others”.
The Minister called on all universities to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism: “I expect our universities, as vehicles of change, to show moral leadership and accept the IHRA definition of antisemitism which shows that an institution and its senior leaders are serious about ensuring their campuses are tolerant environments where ideas and debate can flourish but persecution can never take hold”.
Guidance published in February, led by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, clearly states the legal rights and obligations around free speech for all institutions and student unions (SU). This sets out that universities, student unions and their societies must ensure they do not discriminate in the way they organise events.
The government has also taken steps together with the sector to tackle hate crime and harassment, including through the Office for Students (OfS) which is supporting institutions in their work in the area.
Last year the OfS provided £480,000 for 11 projects tackling religious-based hate crime in higher education. One of the projects, led by King’s College London, aims to tackle religious intolerance, and King’s is one of the first universities to accept the full IHRA definition of antisemitism.