Prevented Education: Controlling the Narrative in Colleges and Universities

Recent British governments have chosen to make fighting ‘extremism’ a defining policy and have had Parliament legislate this in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, which enshrines into law the Government’s ‘Prevent duty’, first published in 2011 as part of a wider, ostensibly counter-terrorist, strategy. 

In the United Kingdom, public bodies including colleges, universities and schools now have to a statutory duty to prevent young people from being drawn into terrorism, hence the name of the scheme. In reality, this means that public officials, teachers, lecturers and health professionals are expected to monitor any behaviour that they find suspicious or extreme, and to further report it to, Prevent, for further investigation. 

Have our educational establishments been corrupted and infiltrated by draconian new policies: crackdowns on free speech and free thought? The Prevent duty has risked more harm than good by shutting down discussion of any subject that is deemed controversial or conspiratorial by anyone with a publicly-funded role. It has created a climate of mistrust between students and teacher and instilled a fear that looms large on most British campuses.

Debi Evans is joined by Saed, a young man in his late teens, who was at college studying for A Levels (the final secondary school examinations at age 18) but whose life and education changed in a heartbeat because, rather like Murray Allan, he aired his convictions on transgender ideology in class. Saed—whose name has been changed to protect his identity—is joined by his friend Dylan and also by James Harvey, representing Students Against Tyranny (SAT). 

With predictions for A grades, Saed had everything to look forward to—but then his life changed. After making comments about the Covid–19 ‘vaccinations’ and how his Christian beliefs conflicted with contemporary orthodoxy in the LGBT debate, Saed was suspended from college and told that if he didn’t ‘change’ his views, further action would be taken. Action was taken, and with no warning or notice he was told he had to be interviewed by a Prevent officer in order to establish whether he presented a threat to national security. 

When Saed suggested to his college that he would refrain from voicing his opinions and beliefs at college and would only discuss his Christian values with friends and family, the reply he received shocked him. He was told his opinions would need to change permanently if he was to be allowed to return to college to study. Unable and unwilling to agree to this, Saed was permanently excluded because he would not ‘meaningfully’ participate with a Prevent ‘de-radicalisation’ programme or sign a college ‘behaviour contract’ in which he was to undertake to change his beliefs and thoughts.

Despite going through immense psychological trauma and periods where he felt suicidal, Saed sought support from his friends and from James Harvey at Students Against Tyranny. Shockingly, we learn from James that Saed is far from alone: there are many more students currently feeling isolated, lonely and too afraid to speak up. Many are leaving higher education and seeking alternative employment. After going through many months of being frightened, isolated and anxious, Saed is now studying for his A Levels privately, but it comes at great cost: thus far, nearly £12,000. 

The draconian crackdown on healthy debate and discussions within our Further Education and Higher Education establishments appears to be here to stay. Free speech, free thought and the right to express your ideas, opinions and views has gone—unless many more of us stand up and speak out. James Harvey urges those listening and watching not to be frightened, not to feel alone or anxious. Students Against Tyranny is free to join and all are welcome. For those who may not be eligible to join, donations are always welcome and from as little as £3 per month, they would be put to very good use. How badly have our educational establishments been corrupted? What influence does the Confucius Institute have over our academic institutions, or is it a threat to our national security?

Free speech, democracy and the right to think, dream and pray, have to be protected before they are lost forever. What future do our young people have to look forward to? What means more to you: the duty of care to students or the duty of care to the governmental narrative of the day? Debi Evans would like to thank all involved in the making of this interview, particularly Saed, who has had the courage to stand up and speak out against all odds. Mike Robinson and Stephanie Sinclair at UK Column made this interview possible. 

For more information on the Prevent strategy, there is Debi Evans and Brian Gerrish’s recent in-depth discussion, PREVENTing a War on Domestic Terror in the UK, part of the No Smoke Without Fire series.

Dr Arif Ahmed of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, is notionally Director overseeing free speech at the Office of Students.