This briefing paper aims to show how a mainstream academic institution in the UK can become an
incubator for extremist, intolerant and potentially violent forms of political thought, in this case
Islamism. Taking City University in the last academic year (Sept 2009 – June 2010) as a case study,
this paper provides solid examples of the factors that may contribute to radicalising an individual
towards Islamist-inspired terrorism and establishes how such factors evolved in the context of one
Based on material from the Islamic Society’s (ISoc) Friday sermons, the ISoc’s website and 15
interviews conducted on campus, this case study particularly illustrates how easily a small group of
extremist students can take over a university Islamic Society and use it as a vehicle for the
propagation of extremist, intolerant and pro-violent ideologies. Although the paper does not suggest
that everyone exposed to these factors becomes a terrorist, as this report shows, they can cause
considerable disruption to campus life as well as creating an environment that has the potential to
draw individuals towards Islamist terrorism.
Whilst the problems that occurred at City University during 2009-10 are not necessarily exactly
replicated on other campuses around the UK, it is hoped that this study will show how radicalisation
towards terrorism can occur on a British university campus and also provide some pointers for
universities looking to stop such situations from recurring on campuses elsewhere.
1. The potential for radicalisation towards terrorism
At City University extremist members of the campus Islamic Society created an environment in
which there was the potential for radicalisation towards Islamist-inspired terrorism.
According to the criteria adopted by the government’s Channel programme, there are four
identifiable factors that may contribute to radicalising an individual towards making them believe in
the utility, both...