Rishi Sunak summons university chiefs amid ‘serious concerns’ over antisemitism following clashes on US campuses

3 May 2024, 15:17

Mr Sunak has called a meeting for later this month.
Mr Sunak has called a meeting for later this month. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Rishi Sunak has summoned university vice-chancellors at Downing Street amid concerns over antisemitism following protests in the US this week.

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The Prime Minister has summoned the university chiefs to a meeting later this month to seek reassurance they are tackling antisemitism at their institutions.

Mr Sunak has reportedly expressed concerns following a series of demonstrations across UK campuses.

Protests against Israel’s war with Gaza have been held across various universities throughout the week, including in Bristol, Leeds, Warwick and London.

The Union of Jewish Students said in a statement its members were “angry, tired and hurt by the continuous torrent of antisemitic hatred on campus”.

It continued: “As Jewish students begin their exams, their peers seek to replicate scenes of hatred from US campuses. While students have a right to protest, these encampments create a hostile and toxic atmosphere on campus for Jewish students.

“Let us be clear: we will not stand for this hatred. It is time that universities take their duty of care to Jewish students seriously.”

Read more: Chaos on campus: Police raid UCLA and Columbia universities as 'horrific violence' breaks out at Gaza protest in LA

Read more: Bear spray fired at riot police as officers clash with pro-Palestinian protesters at US university

Rishi Sunak has summoned university vice-chancellors to discuss the measures they are taking.
Rishi Sunak has summoned university vice-chancellors to discuss the measures they are taking. Picture: Alamy

It comes after university campuses across the US have seen huge clashes between protesters and riot police over the last week.

It has led to “serious” concerns in the government that campus protests in the UK could escalate in a similar way.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Whilst we firmly believe in the power of rigorous free speech and debate, the right to that does not include the right to harass others.”

On Thursday, protesters forced their way into a library at Goldsmiths, University of London and barricaded themselves inside.

‘From the river to the sea’ and ‘Shut it down for Palestine’ banners could be seen in the window.

A Goldsmiths spokesman said: “We are in dialogue with students and are fully committed to working together to put in place meaningful support for those affected by the war.”

Clashes broke out between riot police and protesters on US campuses earlier this week.
Clashes broke out between riot police and protesters on US campuses earlier this week. Picture: Alamy

A Department for Education source told The Telegraph there was “serious concern” that the protests could escalate after riot police were forced to attend sit-ins at Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on Wednesday.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters set up behind barricades on the UCLA  campus despite police orders to leave earlier this week.

Police began arriving on Wednesday afternoon, and empty buses were parked near UCLA to take away protesters who did not comply with the order.

More than 2,100 people during pro-Palestinian protests at college campuses across the United States in recent weeks.

A tally by The Associated Press on Thursday found at least 50 incidents of arrests at 40 different US colleges or universities since April 18.

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