The university sector is under various pressures, of which the securitisation agenda is a particularly disturbing one: universities are accused of allowing ‘radicalisation’ to violent Islamic causes to occur on campus unchecked. This research project will benefit research users both on and off campus by collecting, analysing and disseminating both existing and new knowledge, and facilitating knowledge exchange between and among stakeholder groups. Good management and infrastructural support will facilitate establishing relationships and networks with stakeholders. These will be enhanced by ‘co-production’ i.e. research methods that involve stakeholders in the research.
Well planned user engagement and knowledge exchange strategies will include workshops and a national conference to bring users/stakeholders together to share our findings about views on Islam on campus. We have identified five key stakeholder groups; our intention is to bring them together to define the major issues, to share their perspectives (as groups and as individuals) on our findings and to consider productive ways forward that benefit all:
1. UK universities and Muslim HE institutions: These are often perceived as being at opposite ends of a spectrum between fundamentalism and secularism. We will bring together scholars from both sides of this perceived dichotomy to discuss, suggest and validate strategies for increasing collaboration and understanding. There will be economic benefits to the academic sector, because the research findings will focus without prejudice upon a new client base: the Muslim population of Britain is growing fast, with over a quarter being of school and university age.
2. Academics and Scholars involved in Islamic Studies: They are responsible for course content and direct contact with students and will benefit from new clarity about Islamic Studies, its perspectives and methods across the HE sector, and its role in shaping discourses on Islam. The cross-university discussion generated by project seminars will also foster a greater awareness within the discipline of its changing context and the ways in which the impact of Islamic Studies could be enhanced, thereby hopefully fostering its sense of unity, internal coherence and academic standing. The team has a portfolio of research that will build its reputation with academics.
3. Policy makers: The increasing visibility of diverse populations in British universities reflects patterns in the UK generally, and legislation around equality obliges university policy makers and local and national governments to have frameworks for community cohesion. This research will provide critical commentary on government agendas around equalities (particularly of religion or belief), community cohesion and radicalisation by exploring their impact at universities and nationally through, for example, NUS, BIS and PREVENT.
4. British Muslim communities: They comprise the largest religious minority in Britain and this research will specifically seek to consult and collaborate with them. Meaningful engagement with Muslim student groups and the broader Muslim communities to which they belong is essential if research and public policy is to reflect accurately the complexities of British society. Moreover Muslim student groups and youth organisations actively engage in debates on the role and place of Islam in Britain. A better understanding of how perceptions of Islam are shaped will reinforce their confidence and ability to lead constructive dialogue about Islam and Muslims on campus and beyond.
5. Third Sector: These are voluntary, community and charity organisations who are working towards interreligious and inter-community dialogue and societal cohesion in Britain. The findings of the research will inform their work particularly in the contexts of pluralism and synergies between Islam and the West. They will act as intermediaries and knowledge brokers.