Unis reject call to spy on students
June 13, 2007
UNIVERSITIES have rejected a proposal for lecturers to spy on students they believe could be recruited by extremist groups.
A policy analysis released today by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) warns Australia's 39 universities, with more than one million students and staff, are potential terrorist targets as well as potential terrorist recruiting grounds.
Authors Dr Anthony Bergin and Raspal Khosa said large numbers of foreign students enrolled at Australian universities provided opportunities for potential terrorists to blend in.
"The improper use of student visas may see universities used to further terrorist intent," they said.
"Universities ... are also a potential source of recruitment of ideologically susceptible students by various extremist groups, and have in some places become hubs of radical propaganda and fundraising for militant causes."
They suggested creating a regular information-sharing forum between national security agencies and the peak universities body, Universities Australia, to discuss such issues as priorities for terrorism research.
"One sensitive issue that would need to be canvassed at such a forum is the matter of academics monitoring students on behalf of security agencies," they said.
The report warns universities are vulnerable to terrorist attack due to modest security, easy access and large numbers of people.
Dr Bergin and Mr Khosa said universities were potentially symbolic targets for terrorists.
Many Australian universities had overseas campuses which might be seen as targets for militant Islamists in their war against the West.
Universities could also be targeted because of the presence of high-profile individuals such as visiting VIPs, they said.