As an institution of higher education, the Open University has an important role in providing appropriate platforms to challenge extremist views and ideologies.
This is through the provision of learning and research and the protection of academic freedom and promotion of free speech, debate and liberal values. Preventing people from being drawn into terrorism is synonymous with our concern for student and staff welfare and wellbeing. These factors and other important aspects of our response are contained in a set of OU Prevent Principles.
The OU has taken steps to meet the requirements of the legislation by identifying where the risks of people being drawn into terrorism might arise and by amending policies and procedures to address these risks.
About extremism, radicalisation and terrorism
The UK Government defines extremism as vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. Extremism also includes calls for death of members of the armed forces. These values are shared in many other countries and territories and are not unique to Britain or the UK.
Radicalisation is a process over time, rather than a single event, involving a radicaliser (a person) or extremist group increasing their influence on a person. It can involve exposure to views and material, which are used to encourage or reinforce individuals to adopt a violent ideology. Some information and material may explicitly encourage violence. Other information and material may take no particular position on violence but make claims to which violence is subsequently presented as the only viable solution.
During the process of radicalisation, it is possible to intervene to prevent vulnerable people being drawn into terrorist-related activity. This is where reporting a matter of concern comes in. When a concern is raised, a careful and sensitive information gathering process will help in making a judgment as to whether an individual is vulnerable or not. If that assessment shows they may be vulnerable, a referral can be made to ensure they receive further assessment and support where appropriate.
Terrorism is defined as an action that endangers or causes serious violence to a person/people; causes serious damage to property; or seriously interferes with or disrupts an electronic system. The use or threat must be designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public and is made for the purpose of advancing political, religious or ideological cause. Where actual terrorism or threat of terrorism is evident, the Prevent concern procedure is not used and the Police should be informed immediately.
To read about the Open University’s Prevent Principles, please follow the link:
To report a Prevent concern
If you are a student, a member of staff or an associate of the University and you believe that you are being targeted in any way to being drawn into extremism or to being radicalised or you observe this occurring in any Open University environment, please report your concern to the OU Prevent Co-ordinator at Prevent-Coordinator@open.ac.uk.
This should always be your first step. Even if you have doubts as to whether a matter is relevant or not, you should always seek advice. Members of the Prevent team who have received advanced Prevent training will be able to assess if the matter requires further investigation or not.
What happens when you raise a concern
The relevant team will carefully and sensitively consider the available evidence in order to assess whether the concern is genuine. They may seek further information from you or others in order to verify the information provided or to help them assess the level of vulnerability and welfare of the person. They will also aim to filter out any concerns that are misinformed or malicious in nature. If the case is viewed to be sufficiently serious, it will be referred to the OU Prevent Panel for a full assessment of risk and decision on any further action that may be required including, if necessary, external referral.
In very serious cases, where there is clear evidence that an individual is vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism, the OU Prevent Co-ordinator will refer the person to an external Channel panel. Channel is a multi-agency approach to help support individuals who are at risk of being drawn into terrorism. Channel panels are concerned with preventing people being drawn into criminal activity rather than dealing with crimes and are required to consider referrals in line with the requirements to safeguard vulnerable individuals.