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UUK publishes guidance on security risks

UK universities must take steps to security risks such as guarding against foreign interference and cybersecurity according to new guidance published by Universities UK

UUK has published new guidance to help universities deal with security risks. Photo: Pexels

"The guidance argues that rigorous, informed debate is the foundation of high-quality higher education"

The guidance, which is the first of its kind, is intended to support university leaders to better protect themselves, their staff, and their students against security-related risks that can result from international collaborations.

“These guidelines will help universities protect their students and staff”

Advice is offered around threats including cybersecurity, the theft of intellectual property and data, research collaborations and the security of university campuses- with the aim that institutions will be able to work together internationally with confidence.

“These guidelines will help universities protect their students and staff and ensure we are able to pursue and develop secure and sustainable partnerships across the world,” said Peter Gregson, chief executive and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University and chair of the UUK convened taskforce, which drafted the guidance. 

“While every university has mechanisms in place to handle the risks associated with these partnerships, the threats posed are growing in number and complexity and our institutions must remain vigilant and continue to develop their own understanding and practices.

“Our universities are a cultural and research superpower because of our international collaborations and they have a leading role to play in the future prosperity and security of the UK,” he said.

Included in the guidelines is advice on how universities can protect themselves from foreign interference and how to manage cybersecurity at UK campuses. 

It argues that rigorous, informed debate is the foundation of high-quality higher education and the advancement of knowledge. 

UUK advises that to identify and manage the risks of interference, institutions should develop and promote clear codes of conduct, policies and legal agreements that enshrine the core values of academic freedom and freedom of speech. 

They should also promote open and transparent communication, debate, research and enquiry about what interference might look like and support staff and students to take responsibility for protecting against these infringements throughout their engagements and activities.  

Institutions should also develop processes and mechanisms through which staff and students can report any concerns and receive support in relation to issues connected to academic freedom and freedom of speech, according to UUK. 

“UK’s universities are “proudly dynamic, diverse and international institutions”

According to the guidance, the UK’s universities are “proudly dynamic, diverse and international institutions, bringing together staff, students and visitors from across the globe throughout the year”. 

“Institutions play an important civic role, supporting their communities and providing communal and open spaces. Your institution should balance this civic role with the need to protect your institution and its assets. 

“You should develop integrated estates and visitor policies and ensure that cybersecurity strategies are developed and implemented,” the guidance reads. 

Institutions should also protect their research security and intellectual property by conducting due diligence on prospective overseas partners for all types of collaboration, according to UUK.

Gregson said the benefits that overseas staff and students bring to UK campuses are “varied and plentiful”, and that they increase the competitiveness of the research base and enrich the overall experience for everyone. 

“The UK government’s International Education Strategy makes clear the value of international students and these guidelines will help assure a future for extended international working, safeguarding the excellence of the sector,” he said. 

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