The University, Prevent and Cultures of Compliance

Mcgovern, Mark (2017) The University, Prevent and Cultures of Compliance. Prometheus, 34 (1). pp. 49-62. ISSN 0810-9028 DOI

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Recent years have witnessed a decisive move toward centralised, hierarchal, managerialist decision-making structures in UK universities. Likewise, there is a central paradox at the heart of these changes. Centralisation, bureaucratisation and the ever greater top-down managerial control of academic life have been paralleled, and legitimated, by the language of decentralisation and freedom. This reflects the ‘fundamental paradox of neoliberalism [where the] use of government intervention to establish and regulate markets’ is masked by the rhetoric of the free hand of the market (Letizia, 2015, 33). Likewise, the privatisation of universities, resulting from the wholesale reduction of government funding, is paralleled by an increase of government regulation of what universities do (Docherty, 2015). Such paradoxes are echoed in the specific focus of this article. As part of the 2015 Counterterrorism and Security Act, passed in April 2015, the current UK government has placed a statutory duty, now enforceable by criminal law, upon a broad range of institutional authorities, including departments of social work, hospitals, schools and of course colleges and universities, that in their policies and practices they have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. This is the latest in the tranche of ‘anti-terror’ legislation introduced since 2000 and of the Prevent stream of Contest, the government’s overall counter-terrorism strategy. This paper seeks to explore the likely impact of the ‘Prevent duty’ on the life of the contemporary neoliberal university and the manner in which it enmeshes and deepens further a culture of compliance, restricting inquiry and speech in the name of academic freedom and promoting distrust, inequality and alienation in the name of protection and duty of care. To do so, the paper will therefore examine the two distinct but potentially complimentary threats posed by encroaching cultures of compliance within universities evident in and relevant to the Prevent duty.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Divisions: Sociology
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2017 09:46

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