Managing protest on campus and wider issues connected with the Israel-Gaza conflict

Like many other universities in the UK and globally, we are currently experiencing a protest on our Quad with tents and banners. This page sets out how UCL is managing the current situation on campus and wider issues connected with the Israel-Gaza conflict.

This information includes what support is available to those affected, how to report incidents, how we are responding to the protestors and guidance for upcoming events and activities.  

Supporting staff and students 

The deep pain being caused by the conflict in Gaza, Israel and the wider region is being felt acutely by many in our community. Our primary responsibility is supporting the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students during this difficult time.  

Many teams across the university have been working hard to support those affected in our community including supporting those who have engaged with our services directly, reaching out to members of our community who were and are studying, researching or working in the region, engaging through our Student Societies and staff networks to try to identify and help those impacted, and running drop-in support sessions.   

Senior leaders’ conversations with a range of student and staff groups, including representatives of our Muslim, Jewish, Palestinian, Israeli and Arab communities, have been helpful in guiding us in supporting students and staff. We are committed to continuing this dialogue to best understand and respond to our community’s concerns.  

We have a wide range of support available including specialised emotional and practical support for students affected by events in their home countries through sessions of Psychological First Aid (PFA), 24/7 confidential and free mental health and wellbeing support lines, extenuating circumstances or academic adjustments for those struggling with the impact on their academic work, financial assistance and more. Information about this all can be found on these pages detailing how we are supporting and responding to students and staff affected by the conflict. 

The services we have are open to support all staff and students who may be affected, and we strongly urge you to reach out if you are in need and to help signpost to these widely across our university. 

UCL is focused primarily on supporting our student and staff community as best we can during this difficult time. 

UCL is a large, diverse community and therefore a place containing a wide diversity of opinions, experiences and perspectives. Our position is that the university should be a forum for engagement, enabling views, even passionately held and strongly conflicting views, to be expressed and debated in as constructive and considered a way as possible.  

The university itself should not be a participant in debate outside matters directly concerning higher education as this may inhibit the freedom to express contrary views. This is why we have not, and will not, take an institutional position on the Israel-Gaza conflict. 

UCL views the right to protest, debate and challenge ideas as fundamental to freedom of speech, and we are committed to ensuring that our students and staff are able to express their views and opinions in a legal, safe and respectful way. 

Our campus is open to protest as well as to debate. We must take all reasonable steps to ensure that protests within the law by members of our community can take place safely, even when this may cause distress or concern for others who share different backgrounds, beliefs or views. 

However, there are limits to what protests are allowed, and the right to freedom of expression is not unfettered. It is limited, for example, by laws for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, to protect national security and public safety. Universities do not function in a vacuum, and the challenge for UCL is to identify when the pursuit of freedom of ideas and expression crosses a threshold and becomes unlawful or poses unacceptable risks to the health, safety or welfare of employees, students or visitors. 

We are aware that there are external individuals and organisations who are seeking to exploit the university’s duty to allow freedom of expression, to disrupt the university’s business in the name of their cause. We cannot allow something that causes significant disruption to the running of the university and interferes with our primary purpose as a place of learning and research. 

The current protest with tents on the main Quad is increasingly drawing external engagement with demonstrators conducting protests immediately outside our campus (both opposing and supporting the student protesters) and has led to some arrests on public streets. This is a situation that creates safety risks for our community, which is why we have taken the decision to continue largely to keep access to the campus to our own staff and students for the time being.  

We have been asking our staff and students to show their ID cards at the gates, and for visitors to do the same.  

If external visitors to UCL have a valid reason to attend campus, they will still be welcome. But they will be asked to demonstrate the purpose of their visit on the gate which may include showing evidence of the reason for attending campus, such as an email or invitation. Please do flag this to your external guests ahead of them coming to campus. You can find further guidance below on planning for events and activity.  

UCL has security on campus 24/7 and who can be contacted in an emergency by calling +44 (0)20 7679 2222 or UCL ext. 222 from any UCL phone, or by using the SafeZone app to contact the security switchboard. SafeZone works on the Bloomsbury and UCL East Campuses. 

We want to remind everyone that racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, abuse, incitement or harassment will never be tolerated at UCL, and we have been saddened and disgusted to see spikes in these across the country and within our own campus.   

If anyone feels that they have encountered speech or behaviour that goes beyond legitimate discourse, we encourage you to use our  Report + Support  channels to ensure we can take any necessary action.  

We are treating reports that we receive with the utmost seriousness, and so we strongly urge you to report any incidents through the online tool. Report + Support is open to all members of our community, whether they are the victim of an instance of abuse, or witness to any incident, and it includes the option to report anonymously or on the record. More information and additional resources can be found on these pages. 

If a member of the public wants to make a complaint, they can do so by using the Public Complaints Process which can be found here. 

Guidance for upcoming events and activities 

The business of the university has been largely continuing as usual, and we are doing all that we can to ensure that activity can continue with as little disruption as possible. 

For staff involved in planning events, we will be hosting an Events Community of Practice (CoP) drop-in session to provide staff with an opportunity to ask further questions. We will be contacting our CoP members soon to provide details of this, and will also be sharing guidance with senior leaders, Departmental Managers and other key groups involved in organisation. 

If you are planning events or activities on campus, it is very important that all the usual processes that apply to putting on an event are followed and are approved before the event promotion begins.  

As a headline this would include: 
  • Ensuring the space you are using is suitable in terms of capacity, and what the access route is to it (and emergency evacuation plan). 

  • For events that include external speakers, follow the Procedure for the Management of Events that include External Speakers. This procedure includes information on using the online booking system where you note your external speaker requirements. 

    For bookings relating to Students’ Unions UCL Clubs and Societies, please follow the guidance on How to Organise an Event with an External Speaker on the Students’ Union UCL website. 

    Complete an events risk assessment - this will help you think about the risks your event may have, and how you can best mitigate these. 

  • Think specifically about how you might handle any disruption should it occur, and have a documented plan so that everyone is following one set of agreed actions, and knows their own responsibilities. 

  • Please ensure that external guests are made aware ahead of time that they will be asked to demonstrate the purpose of their visit at the gate. This could include showing evidence of the reason for attending campus, such as an email invitation or ticket to your event.  

    Depending on where on campus the event is taking place, it may be appropriate to provide instructions for entry and directions that allow attendees to enter via an alternative route.  

    UCL has several significant campus-wide events coming up for both students and staff. These events are important moments in the life of our student body and wider community and had been planned to take place in the Quad space. 

    Senior leaders from across UCL and the Students’ Union are working hard to try and mitigate the impact the protest has on events for our community. They have been reaching out directly to Offices, Faculties, Societies and groups whose activities will be impacted to try and find solutions that will ensure a positive, safe and enjoyable experience for all’attendees. 

    The difficult reality is that some of the events planned in the Quad over the coming weeks are set to involve large-scale structures such as stages, bars or fairground rides. It is not possible to safely set up these structures around the protest location.  

    Compounding this, external rallies outside the main gates by external groups create additional safety risks, specifically the entry and exit of emergency vehicles. The continued safety and wellbeing of our community and those attending events remains our number one priority. 

    We have found mitigations or alternative venues for most of the events impacted by the protest. This has included incorporating new venue spaces or adjusting event formats and running schedules so the event can still take place.  

    Unfortunately, in a few cases it has not been possible to arrange secure and safe alternatives without compromising the experience for attendees. If you are a ticket holder to an event that has been affected, event organisers will be communicating with you directly.  

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    UCL is open in publishing and disclosing information on our income, donations, investments, and capital expenditure.  

    Our university operates on a basic principle of academic freedom. Our staff and students should be free to conduct research within the law on any subject that they choose, and in collaboration with anyone operating in any country that is not the subject of UK sanctions. 

    However, academic freedom is not without its limits. For over two decades, export controls have legally restricted any UCL research with partners outside the UK that involves dual-use technologies (that is, technology that could be used for both civil and military purposes). More recently, in seventeen areas of research with national security implications a stringent set of UK laws came into effect in 2022 that limit how we can collaborate with private companies, governments and other organisations outside the UK. 

    We undertake a due diligence assessment on all’our research applications involving new partners that considers ethical, legal, financial, and national security implications before entering a collaboration. Research that is funded through philanthropic gifts undergoes a similar evaluation led by our Gift Acceptance Committee. For those collaborations where research involves human participants, a further ethical review (led either by our own Research Ethics Committee or the UK Health Research Authority for research on patients or patient data) is required before the research can begin.  

    Our research ethics process appropriately involves both staff and students from the university, as well as external members who ensure that a diverse range of expertise and views are considered. Together, these different layers of scrutiny ensure that ethical, legal, financial and national security implications of our research collaborations are appropriately conducted in line with our values and within the law. 

    UCL research is also published under , which means that it is openly available online without restriction to all readers, free from the barriers imposed by subscription access. In this way, the products of UCL research are available for all to see.
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