Government guidance for universities to monitor staff and student internet usage and report findings to the police has come under attack. The University and Colleges Union said: “the last thing that we need is people too frightened to discuss an issue or research a subject because they fear being arrested or institutions panicking and calling in the authorities”. These fears hold particular resonance at the University of Nottingham where student Rizwaan Sabir was arrested and detained for downloading an al-Qaeda handbook last year. The government fervently defended their actions as being necessary as part of a government crackdown on extremism, although it later emerged that Sabir was researching his dissertation on terrorism.
The government guidelines warn that institutions of higher education are now legally obliged “to prevent staff or students from accessing illegal or inappropriate material through college ICT systems.” Government anti-terrorism legislation has been steadily increasing over the years with laws such as the 2006 Terrorism Act extending government power to search and detain those expected of involvement in terrorist activity.