Universities must 'stamp out antisemitism', minister Chris Skidmore warns

The Department for Education said the announcement follows 'reports of unfair practices that could amount to indirect discrimination' in UK universities


Universities must do more to stamp out antisemitism on campus, minister Chris Skidmore will say on Friday.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the announcement follows “reports of unfair practices that could amount to indirect discrimination” in UK universities.

Mr Skidmore will urge the further education sector to “advance its efforts to tackle unacceptable religious hatred in higher education”, calling on all universities to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

 The issue of campus antisemitism has returned to the fore in 2019 after a series of high-profile incidents of perceived prejudice against Jewish societies (Jsocs) and pro-Israel activism within students’ unions.

In February more than 200 University of Essex students – 36 per cent of respondents – voted against the creation of a Jsoc.

The following month, a motion pledging to combat antisemitism on campus was voted down by the Leeds University Union.

In a letter that will be sent to universities this week, Mr Skidmore challenges institutions to “step up and tackle antisemitism”.

It reads: “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.

“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.

“Some institutions are already displaying leadership in this area but I expect our universities, as vehicles of change, to show moral leadership and adopt 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.”

The Jewish Leadership Council, Union of Jewish Students and Community Security Trust have raised reports of unfair practices.

In some cases, Jsocs have been asked to pay up to £2,000 for their own security at speaker events, which Mr Skidmore said “may amount to indirect discrimination”.

Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “We are pleased to see that the universities minister will call on universities to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism and advising them that unfair charges to Jewish societies on campus for security are unacceptable.

“These actions will ensure that there is a safe, welcoming and tolerant environment on UK campuses and we are grateful to the Government for its continuing support for the welfare of Jewish students.”

Campaigns Organiser of the Union of Jewish Students, Daniel Kosky added: “Following our productive meeting with the Minister in April, we are grateful that he has acted on a number of our recommendations, including supporting the removal of prohibitive security costs for Jewish societies, and strengthening freedom of expression guidelines.

“Jewish students have long called for institutions to adopt the IHRA definition, and we now expect universities to follow the Government’s call, after the recommendation of Universities UK and the Office for Students, among others.”

Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies, said the announcement “will be warmly received by Jewish students, Jewish academics and the wider community, who have become increasingly concerned with antisemitic incidents at higher education institutions.”

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