Terror blunder: British universities are 'real and serious' terrorism threat

British universities have long been identified as a potential breeding ground for extremists.


Assistant Commissioner Robert Quick arriving at No 10 for a briefing with Jacqui Smith and Gordon Brown

Assistant Commissioner Robert Quick arriving at No 10 for a briefing with Jacqui Smith and Gordon Brown Photo: Steve Back

Ministers have already warned that the threat from campuses was "real and serious" as students are at risk of being groomed by fanatics.

Experts say as many as 48 universities have been infiltrated in the past, with claims that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have fuelled the radicalisation of many young undergraduates.

Last year, the Government re-issued guidance to universities urging academics and students to report suspicions over extremism.

They were told to identify student societies - particularly Islamic groups - at risk of falling into the hands of radical preachers and vet speakers invited onto campuses to address students.

Bill Rammell, the former Higher Education Minister said he did not want to "overstate the menace" of violent extremism, but it was a "real and serious threat".

Prof Anthony Glees, of the University of Buckingham, warned that at least 48 campuses including Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Imperial College London had been infiltrated.

Student Islamic societies have faced growing scrutiny after it emerged that one of 12 men charged in connection with the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners was president of the Islamic Society at London Metropolitan University.

Anjem Choudary, the former head of the radical al-Muhajiroun group in Britain, joined the organisation as a student at the University of Surrey.

In 2006, Dhiren Barot, said to be al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's "UK general", was jailed for 40 years for planning terrorist attacks. He faked his identity in order to study at Brunel University.

One student, who joined the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir while studying at Leeds University, claimed in an interview that universities were "bread-and-butter" recruiting grounds for extremist groups.

Prof Glees said: "We must accept this problem is widespread and underestimated. Unless clear and decisive action against campus extremism is taken, the security situation in the UK can only deteriorate."

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