Colleges secretly agree to share Prevent scheme data

It has been revealed that colleges in Greater Manchester have entered an agreement to tip off universities when an incoming student ad been referred to the government’s Prevent programme.

The Guardian has revealed that the arrangement, revealed in documents uncovered by the researcher Dr Hilary Aked, includes University of Manchester, University of Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Chester and the Manchester College, the largest further education college in the UK. The organisations drew up the data-sharing agreement in the last two years with the help of counter-terrorism police and the Department for Education to share details of students referred to programme for stopping people from becoming terrorists.

The agreement says the purpose of data-sharing is not to inform a university’s decision to make or withdraw an offer to a student but to ensure ‘that those people who need support services can receive them’. A young person subject to a Prevent referral does not have to consent to the information being shared, though they are informed.

Critics have argued that the data-sharing agreement in Greater Manchester raises the possibility that a referral could continue to blight a young person throughout their life.

According to the papers, the plans were drawn up after the bombing of Manchester Arena in 2017, in which 23 people died, including the attacker Salman Abedi – a former student of Manchester College.

Di Hilary Aked said: “These agreements enable Prevent referral data to be shared whether the young person concerned gives their consent or not. Highly dubious in terms of necessity and proportionality, this also undermines the already paper-thin claim that Prevent is a consensual, supportive safeguarding programme. What kind of ‘support’ is forced on people in this way?

“It means that a Prevent referral – which may have been made on completely spurious or racist grounds – could continue to blight a young person throughout their life, leading them to be treated like a potential terrorist and targeted for unwarranted suspicion and surveillance. Although the universities involved claim this data is not being shared to inform admissions decisions, it is also concerning that there are no real guarantees a Prevent referral won’t also damage a young person’s chances of getting a place at university.”


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