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Education e-briefing - The Prevent duty – in force for colleges and universities

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings



We previously considered the implications for education institutions of the “Prevent” duty under s.26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 in our briefings:

and in the Mid-Term edition of Instep magazine:

The duty came into force for a wide range of public bodies, including schools and academies, on 1 July 2015. However, the extension of the duty to colleges and universities subject to special legal duties in respect of ensuring freedom of speech and academic freedom was deferred pending the approval by Parliament of new guidance and the necessary regulations. The guidance – separate guidance for colleges and for universities, and for such institutions in Scotland as well as for those in England and Wales – was published, subject to Parliamentary approval, in July. We examined the draft guidance in our July briefing, accessible here:

Colleges and universities should now be aware that the guidance, unchanged from the draft, and the regulations commencing the Prevent duty in such institutions, were approved by Parliament on 17 September and came into force on 18 September. However, in the light of comments by the Prime Minister and the wording of the Government press release it appears no enforcement action in relation to any breaches of the duty was to be taken until 21 September. The press release makes clear how seriously the Government considers the risk of radicalisation of college and university students to be and the efforts that it expects institutions, in partnership with students’ unions, to take to minimise such risks. The press release and links to the approved guidance can be found here:

Compliance with the duty by colleges is to be monitored by Ofsted in England and Estyn in Wales. There is no indication in the HE guidance of the identity of the monitoring body and nothing is said about enforcement. However, the Government press release confirmed that the Government had instructed HEFCE to undertake the role of monitoring compliance with the duty by English HEIs. HEFCE is currently consulting the sector on its proosals which will require HEIs to demonstrate that they have robust procedures in place and operating effectively. The consultation document is accessible at:, responses must be with HEFCE by 23 October.

An announcement by the Welsh Government regarding monitoring of compliance by Welsh universities is awaited.

Next steps

While many institutions will have already taken steps to address the guidance, others may have been awaiting the outcome of the parliamentary process to see the final form of the guidance, being mindful of the concerns about the duty expressed by UUK, UCU and NUS. Such institutions will now need to take rapid steps to meet the government’s expectations or risk having to account to the relevant monitoring body. Institutions should therefore ensure that they have a clear strategy, approved by the governing body, for implementing the Prevent duty, and an action plan including review of the institution’s arrangements in the areas identified by the guidance. In doing so institutions will need:

• to be mindful of the institution’s duties to take all reasonable steps to protect freedom of speech and academic freedom – as confirmed in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act itself.

• to work with students and staff and their representatives, including the trades unions and the students’ union, having regard to the institution’s duties under employment legislation and (under the Education Act 1994) in relation to the students’ union.

How Eversheds can help

Eversheds have produced the following materials that institutions may find helpful:

• a list of policies that may need revision in the light of the Prevent duty (incorporates an outline of the contents of a Prevent policy)

• a note on the legal background for freedom of speech in colleges and universities, updated in the light of the Prevent duty

• a template code of practice on freedom of speech, as required by Education (No. 2 Act 1986, updated in the light of the Prevent duty.

Details of these, including cost, are available on request.

For more information contact

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