Counter-Radicalisation in UK Higher Education: A Vernacular Analysis of 'Vulnerability' and the Prevent Duty

Imran Awan, Andrew Whiting, Keith Spiller

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    1 Citation (SciVal)


    The UK Government defines vulnerability to radicalisation as, ‘the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups’. Given this relationship between radicalisation and terrorism, in 2015 the UK Government passed legislation to enhance the national capacity to pre-emptively identify vulnerable people by co opting public sector workers. This responsibility (‘the Prevent duty’) has mandated the monitoring of citizen’s behaviours based on a relationship between vulnerability, radicalisation, and terrorism that is far from concrete. Despite this, the duty is presented as a clear and actionable framework designed to support frontline workers identify vulnerability and report cases of concern. It is within this context that our paper adopts a vernacular approach to present findings from focus groups and interviews with university students and staff about their comprehension, experiences, and evaluations of vulnerability and the duty. We approach these insights as valuable (but oft neglected) instances of ‘everyday’ security knowledge and argue that they are particularly valuable in the context of a duty that co opts those within Higher Education as counter-radicalisation practitioners and subjects. Our paper argues that conceptual, operational, and normative disconnects between Government policy and vernacular insights ‘on the ground’ mean that the duty assumes an uncertain position within UKHE to the detriment to of its stated objectives.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCritical Studies on Security
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 10 Feb 2024


    • prevent
    • radicalisation
    • vulnerability
    • vernacular security studies
    • terrorism
    • higher education


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