British Universities ‘Dragging Their Feet’ on Countering Antisemitism Face Funding Cuts, UK Education Minister Warns
British universities are in danger of losing funding if they fail to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism — which diagnoses the nature of anti-Jewish hatred and provides various examples of its manifestation — the UK’s education minister warned in a letter to university chiefs on Friday.
“The number of universities which have adopted the IHRA definition remains shamefully low, and I have asked my officials to look at developing options to address this,” wrote Gavin Williamson — the UK’s secretary of state for education — in the letter.
Williamson expressed frustration that a majority of UK universities had ignored appeals from two previous education ministers to adopt the definition.
“Without it, Jewish students say they simply do not feel protected, should they be subject to an antisemitic attack, whether physically, verbally or online and, sadly, we are hearing of an upturn in online incidents since the start of the pandemic,” he wrote.
“While many universities have rightly been quick over the summer to demonstrate their readiness to take action against other forms of racism, it is frankly disturbing that so many are dragging their feet on the matter of antisemitism,” Williamson stated. “The repugnant belief that antisemitism is somehow a less serious, or more acceptable, form of racism has taken insidious hold in some parts of British society, and I am quite clear that universities must play their part in rooting out this attitude and demonstrating that antisemitism is abhorrent.”
Williamson noted that “options that include directing the UK Office for Students (OfS) to impose a new regulatory condition of registration and suspending funding streams for universities at which antisemitic incidents occur and which have not signed up to the definition” were among the stricter measures that could be taken by his department.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews warmly welcomed Williamson’s initiative.
“His letter demonstrates the government’s commitment to protecting Jewish students on campus,” the group said in a statement. “We have been calling on universities to adopt the international definition of antisemitism for several years. There is no excuse for them not to take this essential step.”