The Prevent committee was created after the legislation was passed in 2015Louis Ashworth

CUSU President Daisy Eyre has called out Cambridge’s Prevent Committee for thus far not adequately addressing the disproportionate impact of the Prevent duty on Muslim students, citing findings from a CUSU report commissioned last month – the biggest effort in Cambridge so far to collect student opinions on the controversial Prevent legislation.

In a blog post published Tuesday afternoon – the sixth in a series of president’s blogs detailing her experiences working in CUSU – Eyre described a failure of the University’s Prevent Committee, of which she is a member, to take action thus far as “fairly disappointing”.

Eyre detailed efforts she has made in the past to reform the “particularly problematic” online training for staff currently used to implement the Prevent duty. The University, she told Varsity, has been hesitant to switch from using an external platform to its own, which she says would be more easily amenable to foregrounding human rights and anti-racism.

The report, which compiled 266 responses from the student body, found disparities between how Muslim students perceive the Prevent duty compared to averages across survey respondents.

63 of the 266 responses – 23.7% of respondents – came from Muslim students. Compared to averages across all respondents, CUSU reported that Muslim respondents were less comfortable about discussing their political opinions, and opinions on Prevent, though CUSU did not have its exact figures readily available.

34% of Muslim respondents felt that the Prevent duty “very much” had an impact on their current study, compared to 13% of students overall – the report described the disparities as reflecting the duty’s “chilling effect” on Muslim students.

The Prevent committee comprises the Council – the University’s central decision-making body – and General Board, which is responsible to the Council for matters relating to the University’s academic and educational activities and policies. Eyre, as head of the student union and Council member, sits on the committee.

CUSU adopted its first direct policy stance against Prevent in February this year when it passed a motion at CUSU Council describing the legislation as “fundamentally flawed in its approach”, and “ill-defined and open to abuse for political ends”. The survey last month was part of the policy passed, conducted in order to survey students about the legislation’s impact.

The Prevent duty, part of the 2015 Counterterrorism and Security Act, calls on higher education institutions to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.


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Eyre cited student testimonies in the survey of feelings of being “watched by porters, nervous about writing certain things in essays”, as well as “events being intervened with”.

A spokesperson for the University responded to Eyre’s remarks and the report’s findings: “Considering the views and feedback of the wider community, and refining our procedures accordingly, is an important part of our ongoing operational response.”

The University cited the Prevent duty last November in replacing a SOAS academic as the chair for a Cambridge Palestinian Society event last November with the University’s director of communications, a move Cambridge later apologised for.

A Varsity investigation earlier this year also found stark disparities in the rollout of the Prevent policy across Cambridge colleges, with some colleges mandating Prevent training for all staff, while others took a relatively ‘soft’ approach in training only tutorial staff and directors of studies.

In her blog post today, Eyre wrote that CUSU has “suggested that all colleges adopt the same model of Prevent implementation, so that there would be more transparency in terms of what students can expect.”

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