Universities are training cleaning staff to eavesdrop on students who may be at risk of radicalisation by terrorists, it has emerged.
The moves have been documented in a new report published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. University leaders believe that students with extremist sympathies are more likely to talk about their views in canteens, cafes and libraries than in lecture theatres.
London South Bank university is providing face-to-face training for cleaners, caterers and security workers in the hope that they will spot any signs of radicalisation that teaching staff might miss. And the Open University has developed online training schemes for its security, cleaning and catering staff.
According to UK Government’s universities minister Jo Johnson: “There has never been a more important time for us to come together to tackle the dangers of radicalisation and ensure that extremist ideologies are robustly challenged. Universities play an important role in safeguarding students from radicalisation, but at the same time, protecting freedom of speech.”
The HEFCE report also reveals that London Metropolitan University is monitoring students’ internet use. A spreadsheet of students’ visits to extremist websites is compiled weekly and sent to university chiefs.
But University College London has rejected any web monitoring or filtering of its own. UCL said in a statement: “The university has opted against using IT filtering on the grounds of preservation of academic freedom and to prevent censorship.”