Exclusive

Universities chief says it would be ‘counter-productive’ to break up encampments but vows to protect Jewish students

9 May 2024, 18:36 | Updated: 9 May 2024, 21:29

Andrew Marr speaks to Universities UK's Vivienne Stern on Gaza protests

Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

It would be ‘counter-productive’ to remove pro-Palestine encampments that have sprung up on campuses across the UK, the Chief Executive of Universities UK has told LBC.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Vivienne Stern told LBC's Andrew Marr that there has been a clear rise in anti-Semitic incidents on campuses and across the country, but that universities have a difficult balancing act.

"The challenge universities are facing is really about balancing the need to allow and facilitate legitimate protest with the need to make sure people understand where the red lines are," Ms Stern told LBC.

It comes amid the rising number of pro-Palestine encampments that have been set up on UK campuses, including in Oxford and Cambridge, shortly after violent protests occurred in the United States.

In relation to the encampments, Ms Stern said it was their job to "keep the temperature calm" and said it would be "counter-productive" if the government told universities to forcibly remove them.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Getty

Meanwhile, President of the Union of Jewish Students Edward Isaacs has told LBC that the rise in anti-Semitism has been ‘very disturbing’ for Jewish students on university campuses.

Mr Isaacs met with the Prime Minister, the Education Secretary and university vice-chancellors in Downing Street on Thursday morning to discuss how to protect Jewish communities on campus.

Speaking to LBC’s Iain Dale, Mr Isaacs said the anti-Semitism has dramatically increased on campuses over the last seven months.

He said: “For the last seven months, Jewish students have been experiencing what can only be described as a crisis on campus in terms of we have seen the worst anti-Semitism on campus that we have seen in a generation.

“Jewish students have received death threats, Jewish students have been physically assaulted, Jewish student property has been damaged and it’s deeply concerning to us, ultimately students Jewish students just want to go about their lives like any other student.

“But very simply, this has been a year like no other for them and it’s incredibly disturbing for us”.

Iain Dale joined by UJS President Edward Isaacs

In today's meeting, Vice Chancellors have told the Prime Minister that hard-left activists are feared to be infiltrating pro-Palestine protests on university campuses across the country.

Rishi Sunak heard how top leaders are worried that many of the occupying protests sweeping across Britain are being hijacked by non-students.

Protestors in makeshift camps are urging their universities to cut ties with Israel amid the ongoing war in the Middle East - accusing them of being complicit in Genocide of the people of Gaza.

Read More: Fears hard-left activists are infiltrating universities as PM tells bosses to take 'responsibility' to protect Jewish students

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

Hundreds of students in the US have been arrested as police attempted to clear the protesters.

Some institutions in the UK have been forced to start checking IDs of those coming on to make sure they are genuine students.

The PM hosted a string of Vice Chancellors at Downing Street this morning to grill them on what more they can do to keep Jewish students safe.

He told them: "Together, we will keep Jewish students safe on our campuses.”

He urged university leaders to take "personal responsibility" for looking after all their students, and urged them to adopt a "zero tolerance approach" to anti-Jew hate.

Representative from the University of Jewish Students warned that levels of anti-Semitism were the worst they'd seen in a generation - with reported incidents on campus up 200 per cent.

Pro-Palestine protest camp at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London)
Pro-Palestine protest camp at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London). Picture: Alamy
London, UK. 9th May 2024. Pro-Palestine protest camp at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London)
London, UK. 9th May 2024. Pro-Palestine protest camp at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London). Picture: Alamy

Reacting to today's meeting, a spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen anti-Israel thugs swarm university campuses with calls for intifada, the eradication of the State of Israel, and references to Hamas as ‘freedom fighters’.

“The growing number of encampments comes against a backdrop of escalating antisemitism, with Jewish students facing verbal abuse, receiving death threats and enduring physical violence.

“The hostile environment for Jews that has been created on British campuses challenges the very foundations of academia. Bastions of inclusivity and diversity operating in pursuit of truth are becoming cesspits of racist hate and intimidation.

“We thank the Prime Minister for making it clear that antisemitism has no place in our universities. It is up to vice-chancellors to show that they agree. If they do not, we will do everything that we can to hold them and their institutions to account.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Callum the stag was "humanely euthanised".

Tourists blamed for death of 'legendary' stag after it was fed Rice Krispies and croissants

The Reform UK leader's comments came as he spoke to supporters at a rally in Kent on Tuesday, slamming the current government's ability to control immigration.

Farage warns of Channel migrant 'invasion' from countries 'with terrorism, gang culture and war zones'

Gavin Plumb is accused of plotting to kidnap Holly Willoughby

Obsessed security guard ‘plotted to keep Holly Willoughby in dungeon where screams couldn't be heard for miles'

At least two people have died in the fire

At least two dead as Moscow defence research centre bursts into flames ‘with staff trapped inside’

Parisians along River Seine, below Cathedral Notre Dame celebrate Fête de la Musique - annual city-wide music festival each June

British woman 'gang-raped in Paris at music festival'

Florida rapper Julio Foolio has been shot dead

Florida rapper Julio Foolio shot dead during his birthday in Florida

Meg Bellamy played Kate Middleton in The Crown

The Crown star Meg Bellamy reveals trolls branded her 'too fat' to play Kate in the show

Jay Slater's father has urged people to come forward if they have any information on his son's disappearance

'Someone must know something': Jay Slater's father speaks out as search for missing son stretches into second week

Security guard who plotted to kidnap, rape and murder Holly Willoughby previously held other women against their will

Security guard who plotted to kidnap, rape and murder Holly Willoughby previously held other women against their will

Princess Diana's family home in Mayfair has gone on sale for the first time in decades

'A trophy home with royal connections': Mayfair townhouse where Diana met Dodi on sale for £11m

A shopping centre security guard from Essex, spent almost two years plotting to kidnap and kill Holly Willoughby.

'Obsessed' security guard spent almost two years 'plotting to kidnap, rape and murder' Holly Willoughby

Princess Anne has been injured by a horse

Princess Anne rushed to hospital with concussion after being kicked in the head by horse on country estate

Rishi Sunak has said he is not aware of any other candidates being investigated in the Conservative gambling scandal

Sunak says he's not being investigated in Tory betting scandal and is 'unaware of other candidates being looked at'

Lucy Letby tells retrial she never intended to harm babies in her care

Lucy Letby tells her retrial she never tried to harm any babies in her care

Frederick Allard has been jailed

Predator landlord jailed after demanding sexual favours from women in exchange for reduced rent

Jay Slater's family have shared an image of what is believed to be the last sighting of him

Spanish police issue update on missing Jay Slater after family share CCTV of mystery figure believed to be teen