Counter-Terrorism & Security Act

The University is committed to safeguarding the welfare of its students and staff, and to meeting its duties under the Counter Terrorism & Security Act 2015 and the UK Government’s associated Prevent strategy. This places responsibility on higher education institutions to ‘have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism’. The Prevent duty is explained in detail in the Statutory Guidance issued by the Scottish Government.

While there is low risk of extremist activity at the University, our duty of care to students and staff is of the utmost importance.  Under Prevent we have introduced a handful of proportionate measures that enhance our existing safeguarding procedures, and information about these is available in the Prevent Implementation Plan.

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The following FAQs are intended to provide further information for staff and students to refer to if required.

What approach is the University taking to implementing Prevent? 

The underpinning principle of the Prevent strategy is to safeguard individuals from harm, and for higher education institutions this presents a challenge – to balance the principles of academic freedom with their statutory duties, while safeguarding students and staff. With this in mind, the University of Aberdeen has worked to ensure the adoption of measures under Prevent strikes an appropriate balance between academic freedom and student and staff welfare.

Our proportionate approach has included consultation with our student and staff community to ensure full consideration of all of the issues at hand, and reference to relevant guidance from sources including the Scottish Higher Education Prevent Working Group and the UK Government’s Prevent Duty Guidance for Scottish Higher Education Institutions.

What new measures have been introduced?

Under Prevent we have adopted a handful of proportionate measures that enhance our existing procedures.

These include a new Policy and procedures on the management of speakers and events, and measures to ensure that staff receive appropriate training to understand their responsibilities under Prevent, and in providing support for staff and students.

In addition, our Research Governance Framework and associated procedures are being updated to assist us in identifying research where access to extremist material may be required so that staff are aware of procedures around the use of central IT storage and are aware of the laws relating to the use and dissemination of extremist materials online.  This will provide students and staff with additional support to assist them in their research.

Finally, the University has established a Safeguarding Panel that will consider concerns raised by staff or students that may require action to protect people from harm.

All of the measures outlined above are being introduced in a proportionate and careful manner, and with due regard to the underpinning principles of safeguarding people from harm while ensuring academic freedom.

Further details are available in the Prevent Implementation Plan.

What should I do if I have concerns about a student or member of staff?

Staff or students should be aware that any concerns they might have over the safety and wellbeing of a student (regardless of what the issue may be) can be raised in confidence with a member of staff in Student Support. Should anyone have a concern over a member of staff then this should be raised in the first instance with a line manager and support will be offered from HR. 

Staff who are engaged in the provision of advice to students and staff, who have serious concerns over the welfare of an individual that they think should be shared with a third party, should raise these with the University's Safeguarding Panel. 

How will the Safeguarding Panel work?

The Safeguarding Panel is responsible for deciding whether concerns should be shared with relevant external agencies, and acts as the final ‘check’ in the safeguarding process for serious concerns.  This process includes multiple checks to ensure careful and detailed consideration of the matter at hand.

The Safeguarding Panel has three permanent members including the University Secretary, the University’s Prevent Coordinator, and the Senior Vice-Principal. Other members are co-opted on a case-by-case basis, depending on the matter being discussed.

What about data protection? 

Will I be safe to share concerns about a member of staff or student with a third party?

Where someone is concerned about a student or staff member, they may wish to share personal information about this individual with relevant staff whose role it is to provide support in such circumstances.  Higher education staff can generally disclose information about a student to enable another member of staff to do their job, in line with the institution's Data Protection Policy.  Whenever in doubt, advice should be taken from the institution's Data Protection Officer.  Similarly, an institution may wish to share personal information about a student or member of staff with a third party because of concerns regarding the person's wellbeing. Decisions to share information with a third party should be taken by the University’s Safeguarding Panel, in line with the institution's Data Protection Policy. Again, in this instance, advice will be sought from the University's Data Protection Officer.

As a member of staff am I required to undertake any training?

A number of key staff members will be required to attend training that is appropriate to their roles, and they will be notified in due course. This will primarily be aimed at staff in key positions across a range of functions including student support, security, estates, residential services, staff managing room bookings, and IT Services.  Any queries about staff training can be raised in the first instance by emailing buscontinuity@abdn.ac.uk.

What if I want to access extremist material online for legitimate research purposes?

The University is required to provide guidance on access to terrorist related material.  Any researcher who needs to access or store such material as part of their legitimate research should notify the University so that guidance can be issued and secure storage for research data and materials can be provided.  Researchers should notify their Business Development Officer in Research & Innovation if they are applying for external funding or an Ethics Officer if their research requires ethical approval.  If neither of these routes apply please notify buscontinuity@abdn.ac.uk.

What if I want to look at extremist material online out of genuine self-interest? 

Is the University imposing an outright ban on accessing this kind of material? 

Our aim is not to stop people looking at or learning about terrorism or extremism as part of legitimate academic study.   Through the Prevent legislation we are required to offer some advice and support to researchers who require access to these materials. The University already has robust policies in place with regards to information security; however the conditions for using IT Facilities and their associated Guidance Notes have been updated to take account of our statutory Counter Terrorism duty.  The University already has a web-filtering tool in place to prevent staff and students accessing any websites considered to contain harmful material without the necessary permissions.

What is the relevant legislation providing guidance in this area?

The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 is the legislation under which the Prevent strategy has been introduced.  This places responsibility on higher education institutions and other public bodies to ‘have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism’. Other relevant legislation includes The Terrorism Act (2000) which makes it an offence for an individual to collect or make a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism; or to possess a document or record containing information of that kind (e.g. a terrorist training manual).  In addition, the Terrorism Act (2006) makes it an offence to disseminate terrorist publications in order to encourage others to engage in terrorism. 

Isn’t Prevent only going to encourage people to spy on each other?

Our approach to Prevent is not about detecting criminal activity, but encouraging people who have concerns over the safety and wellbeing of an individual to make contact with our support services in order to offer appropriate support if required.  We have robust checks and balances in place to ensure that any concerns are carefully considered and treated with the utmost sensitivity, with the welfare of the individual as our top priority.  We are aware of concerns that Prevent unfairly targets sections of the community, and we are working closely with the University’s Advisory Group on Equality and Diversity to ensure that full and sensitive consideration is given to these issues as we implement Prevent.   Ultimately, our goal is to increase levels of safety and security for our students and staff, and we are confident that the measures being introduced achieve this in a balanced and proportionate manner.

Are there any relevant bodies providing advice to the

University on its implementation of Prevent measures?

The University is a member of the Scottish Higher Education Prevent Working Group.  This group was established by the Scottish University Secretaries in 2015 and is comprised of appropriate representatives from across all Scottish higher education institutions.  The group meets frequently throughout the year and reports directly to the Secretaries Group.  Its remit is to develop guidance to assist the Scottish universities in meeting their statutory duties, and act as a forum for sharing best practice.  The University is also a member of other local, multi-agency groups, like the Prevent Delivery Group, which is comprised of representatives from a number of public bodies in the Aberdeen region. The group meets frequently throughout the year and acts as a forum for sharing best practice, and for assisting public bodies in meeting their statutory duties.

How do I raise any concerns I have regarding the University’s approach to Prevent?

We are committed to open dialogue with our student and staff community to ensure we take full account of their views as we implement these procedures.  Anyone with any concerns regarding this process should contact buscontinuity@abdn.ac.uk in the first instance.