Universities minister fears ‘ghettoisation’ of Jewish students on UK campuses

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Universities minister fears ‘ghettoisation’ of Jewish students on UK campuses

Robert Halfon told MPs that there had been “horrific” incidents of antisemitism at universities across the country.

Robert Halfon
Robert Halfon

A minister is concerned that “ghettoisation” is occurring on university campuses which is preventing Jewish students from enjoying themselves.

Robert Halfon, minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, said antisemitism was a “major problem” across universities in the UK and incidents have surged since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7.

Mr Halfon told MPs that there had been “horrific” incidents of antisemitism at universities across the country.

Addressing the education select committee on Tuesday, the higher education minister said: “I think it is a major problem across our universities.

“I fear that there is ghettoisation going on across universities, with Jewish students unable to do what they should be doing – having the best time of their life at university.”

When asked about antisemitism on campus, Mr Halfon, who is Jewish, told MPs: “It has been pretty horrific.

“Antisemitism was going up across our universities well before October 7. This isn’t just a result about the tragedy in the Middle East and the massacre of Jews and internationals on October 7.

“But since October 7, it’s gone up well over 200%.”

Mr Halfon said the Government was developing a “quality seal” in higher education, which will allow Jewish students to see how well a university tackles antisemitism, and it is considering an “expert advisor” on the issue.

I fear that there is ghettoisation going on across universities, with Jewish students unable to do what they should be doing – having the best time of their life at university

Robin Walker, chair of the education select committee, said he had heard “concerning” anecdotal evidence of some people choosing to study in Israel because they would not be comfortable studying in the UK.

Addressing these reports, Mr Halfon said: “I still believe that our universities are great places to go across the United Kingdom. I hope very much that Jewish students will not feel that they can’t go to our universities.”

He added that the Government will do “everything possible” to stamp out antisemitism.

University leaders also gave evidence to MPs on the committee on Tuesday as part of its inquiry into the impact of last year’s marking and assessment boycott on university students.

When asked about a reported decline in applications from overseas students, Professor Adam Fagan, vice president (education and student success) at King’s College London (KCL), set out factors which may deter some applicants – including security concerns about large demonstrations.

He told MPs: “I was in India two weeks ago and the question that came up from prospective applicants and their families interestingly was not about industrial action.

“It was about whether the UK is a hospitable place for international students and I absolutely reassured them that it was because I genuinely believe that.

“But certainly the pressures of living in London. They’re very cognizant of the huge demonstrations in the city that are taking place. So concerns about security, about the financial costs of a UK education, I think they are paramount.”

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