Written by Student Rights on 16 November 2012 at 3pm

Student Rights at the European Parliament

On Tuesday Student Rights’ researcher Rupert Sutton spoke at a number of events in Brussels organised by the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) that examined the challenges posed by radicalisation in schools and universities.

With closed door sessions with journalists and diplomats followed by a panel discussion in the European Parliament hosted by Olle Schmidt MEP (Swedish Liberal People’s Party), the events focused on practical solutions that could be proposed to policy-makers and stakeholders across the European Union.

Introducing the discussion, Mr Schmidt talked about the benefits of immigration to Europe, and how an intolerant minority should not be allowed to radicalise young people. He was followed by the moderator Lorenzo Vidino, who defined radicalisation for the audience.

Speaking alongside Rupert were Ahmad Mansour, who talked about his youth work with at-risk youngsters in Berlin and in Malmo, and Rashad Ali, who focused on the issues faced by universities and the reasons why individuals leave extremist organisations.

Drawing on the research and recommendations of the Student Rights’ report ‘Challenging Extremists: Practical Frameworks for our Universities’, Rupert discussed policies that already exist, and areas in which they have been unsuccessful.

These included the rejection of Prevent by students, the continuation of extremist speakers visiting campuses, and the problems faced when attempting to challenge radicalisation with legal and regulatory guidelines.

Key to this discussion was pointing out that for policy to work it must become more inclusive and cannot simply be imposed from central government, and that it requires engagement from the student population.

Finally, he broke the recommendations provided down into two basic ideas; challenging the knowledge gap that exists about the role and form of radicalisation on campuses, and challenging extremist material and speakers when they do appear.

Recommendations to improve knowledge included commissioning further independent analysis into the potential role of universities in radicalisation processes and the creation of an easily available information resource for universities and students unions which detailed extremist speakers and organisations.

Challenging extremist material is more difficult, and Rupert suggested enforcing a ‘code of conduct’ with regards to extremism on social media efficiently and consistently and ensuring staff are aware of their duty of care.

He also suggested that universities and student unions should consider applying the NUS ‘No Platform’ policy consistently, as well as reserving the right to disaffiliate student societies that regularly promote extreme material.

The event was then opened up for questions, with the speakers discussing how extremism can be challenged without affecting freedom of expression, the duty of care universities have to their students, and other counter-radicalisation programmes that exist across Europe.