The Archbishop of Canterbury has joined Jewish and non-Jewish peers in calling on the Government to put pressure on universities to ensure free speech on campus and to adopt a new definition of antisemitism.
While universities are autonomous, Archbishop Justin Welby told ministers that simply asking the institutions to crack down over reports of “no-platforming, intimidation and lack of free speech” was not working.
Welby, who is President of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), suggested that “pressure be applied” but Government spokeswoman Baroness Berridge said the House of Lords had voted for universities’ independence, meaning the Government could issue “guidance only”.
She added that the Government “strongly encourages” all higher education institutions to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been criticised in some quarters.
Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) vice-chair Lord Leigh of Hurley said: “It is very disappointing that only five institutions have agreed to adopt the IHRA definition”.
He added that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had recently introduced guidelines on freedom of expression, “requiring universities to have a particular code,” arguing that “if the universities adopted the IHRA definition, that would satisfy the requirements”.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, a Jewish Lib Dem peer, said Jewish students at Bristol “have been dismayed by the lack of response from their institution following a lecturer using slides to teach sociology students conspiracy theories about mainstream Jewish groups, such as the CST, the JLC, and the Board of Deputies”.
He added that adopting the IHRA definition “would assist universities in responding to such disgraceful incidents in the future”.