Our approach to the duty is underpinned by both external legal context and an internal framework of policies and procedures.
The legal background
The Counter Terrorism and Security Act (CTSA) was passed in 2015 and all specified authorities in England and Wales became subject to the new Prevent duty on 18 September 2015, with HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) given responsibility for assessing how they meet the requirements under the new duty.
Section 31 of the CTSA requires universities to have particular regard to their pre-existing statutory obligation. The Education Act (No 2) 1986 imposes a positive and proactive legal duty on universities (Section 43) to promote and protect freedom of speech on campus, and states that the only constraints on the duty to secure freedom of speech are those imposed by the law. Section 43 states that:
“persons concerned in the government of any establishment... shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers".
This duty includes a responsibility to ensure that the use of University premises is not denied to any individual or group on the grounds of the belief or views of that individual or any member of that group or on the grounds of the policy or objectives of the group.
The European Convention on Human Rights safeguards freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 9); freedom of expression (Article 10); and freedom of assembly and association (Article 11). This was incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998. It is unlawful for public authorities to act in a manner incompatible with these rights. The rights are qualified and can be limited by actions necessary and proportionate that pursue a legitimate aim such as the prevention of disorder.
Internal policy framework
UCL has a number of codes of practice, policies and procedures that students agree to comply with on commencement of their studies. These aim to create an environment that permits freedom of speech and expression whilst respecting the rights of others. These fit within a wider institutional policy framework covering staff and students and ultimately supports our compliance with the duty. The main areas that are relevant are:
External speakers and events
Welfare and pastoral care
UCL's persepctive on the Prevent Duty is that it is mainly an issue of safeguarding. UCL has a wide range of policies and procedures as well as services to support students throughout their time at UCL.