EDUCATION MATTERS: Anti-Terror Law 'A Threat to Students

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Byline: By Shahid Naqvi Education Correspondent

Students engaging in passionate debate may find themselves being arrested under new anti-terrorism laws.

The Prime Minister Tony Blair has vowed to push through measures designed to root out extremists inciting violence in Britain.

But some fear they will result in a McCarthy-style witch-hunt on university campuses, with students making anti-British comments in the heat of debate finding themselves referred to the police.

The concern comes days after Education Secretary Ruth Kelly called on vice-chancellors to inform on students or staff suspected of engaging in "unacceptable behaviour".

Under new proposals, condoning or glorifying terrorism - or "indirect incitement to commit terrorist acts" - will become a criminal act.

During the summer, Home Office Minister Hazel Blears warned that someone referring to the London bombers as "martyrs" could face prosecution.

The Home Office said the proposed new measures were not intended to "stifle reasoned debate in an academic context".

But a spokesman added: "Each case will be given individual consideration. But anyone who engages in activity that falls within the published policy criteria, and it is reasonable to believe that the activity presents a direct or indirect threat to the security of the UK, will be considered for exclusion."

The growing number of foreign students could find themselves at particular risk, due to their differing outlook on the world.

Kat Stark, president of Warwick University's Student Guild, said: "Freedom of speech is incredibly important at universities. …