Re/presenting Islam on Campus was a project to explore how Islam and Muslims are represented and perceived on UK university campuses. It was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Running from 2015 to 2018, the project analysed how Islam is understood on university campuses with a view to an open, informed discussion about Islam as an aspect of British life. It aimed to present a fair, accurate and evidence-based picture.
To accomplish this, fieldwork was undertaken at four universities in England, Wales and Scotland, and two Muslim higher education providers, including 140 hours of interviews and focus groups at these institutions. In addition, a survey collected evidence from 2,022 students attending 132 universities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The project was based at SOAS and led by Professor Alison Scott-Baumann together with Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (Coventry University), Professor Mathew Guest (Durham University), Dr Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster University) and Dr Aisha Phoenix (SOAS) with Kareem Darwish (SOAS).
Outputs of the project
The project’s report, Islam and Muslims on UK University Campuses: perceptions and challenges, was published in July 2020.
It found that, while most students view Muslims in a generally positive way, a minority have negative views that resonate with stereotypical representations of Islam as intolerant of outsiders and discriminating against women.
It also found that the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent, has reinforced negative stereotypes of Muslims and has encouraged a culture of mutual suspicion and surveillance on university campuses.
More information can be found in the report’s accompanying press release.
As part of the report’s publication, the project also released this short video, co-created by Muslim students and with Sara Wong at PositiveNegatives to make some of the project’s findings easily accessible.
Representing Islam on Campus
The animation is published under a Creative Commons license by PositiveNegatives. Illustrations by Sabba Khan.
Along with the report, a fuller analysis of the project’s findings appeared in the book, Islam on Campus: Contested Identities and the Cultures of Higher Education in Britain, published by Oxford University Press in September 2020, and in the book, Freedom of Speech in Universities: Islam, Charities and Counter-terrorism, published by Routledge in February 2021.
In April 2021, research from the project was presented as evidence to the Independent Review of Prevent 2021, led by William Shawcross. A summary of the evidence presented can be found here.