A record number of anti-Semitic incidents at universities were reported to a charity in the last academic year, a report suggests.
The Community Security Trust (CST) said it received 123 reports of anti-Semitic incidents affecting Jewish students, academics and student bodies across the UK during the past two academic years.
The number of anti-Semitic incidents at universities rose from 58 in 2018/19 to 65 incidents in 2019/20, according to the charity, which documents incidents and offers support to Jewish people across the UK.
The rise comes despite the academic year being cut short as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A sustained drive by the charity’s campus team to encourage students to report anti-Semitic incidents is likely to be behind the hike, the trust said.
The response of some universities to complaints of anti-Semitism was found to be inconsistent and, in the worst cases, increased the harm felt by Jewish students, the charity report suggests.
Most of the anti-Semitic university incidents took place online, according to the findings.
The report, which looks at the past two academic years, suggests that 51 incidents were online, 39 were on campus and 33 took place off campus.
University incidents are defined as any anti-Semitic incident reported to the charity that involves students, staff, student bodies or academics at a UK university.
Previously, the charity had recorded university incidents by calendar year, and logged 25 such incidents in 2018, 22 in 2017 and 41 in 2016.
The CST is calling on universities to have procedures in place to handle reports of anti-Semitic incidents correctly.
The charity’s chief executive, Mark Gardner, said: “University should be an excellent experience for young people, but CST’s detailed study shows that anti-Semitism is a real problem for some Jewish students, mostly involving racism and ignorance from other young people, either verbally or via social media.
“The most serious cases occur where universities deny their students adequate protection, either from visiting hate speakers, or from their own politically biased academics pushing conspiracy theories, including about British Jews, anti-Semitism and the Labour Party.”
Union of Jewish Students (UJS) president James Harris said: “Amidst rising anti-Semitism on campus over the last two academic years, it is evident that certain universities have woefully disregarded their duty of care to Jewish students.
“All students deserve the right to study without the fear of discrimination. Whilst many institutions have equality and anti-racism frameworks, these have proven to be completely inadequate when protecting Jewish students.
“When anti-Semitism does arise, Jewish students rightly expect that it will be taken seriously and dealt with effectively. I look forward to the day where this is the case at every single university.”
The Government’s independent adviser on anti-Semitism, Lord Mann, said the report “evidences a clear problem in university culture, and a lack of protection for Jewish students”.
Lord Mann called on universities and colleges to follow the charity’s recommendation to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has previously warned that universities could have their funding cut if they refuse to adopt the internationally recognised definition of anti-Semitism before Christmas.
In a letter to vice-chancellors in October, he said there were still “too many disturbing incidents of anti-Semitism on campus” and a lack of willingness by universities to confront it.
A Universities UK (UUK) spokeswoman said: “Universities must do all they can to tackle anti-Semitism. We have asked all our members to consider adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, while recognising their duty to promote freedom of speech within the law.
“We are aware that an increasing number of universities are adopting the IHRA definition and many are considering what more they can do to ensure a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism.”
She added: “We are in regular contact with Jewish community leaders and student groups to ensure that universities are supported to do all they can to tackle anti-Semitism.”