Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, has written to the Office for Students on the matter of adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism.
The Office for Students is the regulator and competition authority for the higher education sector in England.
In his letter, which covered numerous topics relating to universities and campus life, Mr Williamson called for the Office for Students to undertake “a scoping exercise to identify providers which are reluctant to adopt the definition”.
Recently, Campaign Against Antisemitism launched a dynamic project monitoring adoption of the Definition by universities in real time, and shall be providing the latest figures to the Office for Students. The project also includes those universities that have yet to adopt the Definition or have expressly declined to do so, as well as summaries of select antisemitic incidents on university campuses.
Mr Williamson also called for consideration of “mandatory reporting of antisemitic incident numbers by [higher education] providers”. This antisemitism audit would be designed to “ensure a robust evidence base” to assist regulation of this area by the Office for Students.
Finally, Mr Williamson also noted that, where antisemitic incidents do take place at a university, subject to the response of the institution it may be appropriate to consider applying “sanctions, including monetary penalties”.
In full, Mr Williamson wrote: “Following my letter to the sector on October 2020 on antisemitism and adoption of the International [D]efinition of Antisemitism across the [Higher Education] sector, we have positive progress, with at least 31 additional institutions adopting the definition. I would like the OfS [Office for Students] to undertake a scoping exercise to identify providers which are reluctant to adopt the definition and consider introducing mandatory reporting of antisemitic incident numbers by providers. This would ensure a robust evidence base, which the OfS could then use to effectively regulate this area. If antisemitic incidents do occur at a provider, the OfS should consider if it is relevant in a particular whether the provider has adopted the definition when considering what sanctions, including monetary penalties, would be appropriate to apply.”
Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “Gavin Williamson is right to continue to urge adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by universities, and we shall be providing our research to the Office for Students to provide it with the latest figures. We are also heartened by Mr Williamson’s insistence that universities must report and take action against antisemitic incidents, and that failure to do so may attract financial penalties. Jewish life on campus must be protected from anti-Jewish hatred on campus, be it from academics or students.”
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].