The government has suspended engagement with the National Union of Students after antisemitism claims were made against its new Muslim president-elect Shaima Dallali.
The Tories announced yesterday that the NUS will be removed from all the Department for Education (DfE) departmental groups and replaced with alternative student representation.
The NUS will also receive no government funding although at the moment it does not receive any state money.
Last month, the union announced it was opening itself up to an independent investigation following a wave of complaints by pro-Israel students.
The DfE said any NUS investigation must lead to “substantive action” and the decision to disengage from the NUS would be kept under review until the organisation “demonstrates it has suitably addressed these issues.”
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “I am horrified by the thought of Jewish students feeling ostracised by an organisation which should be a voice for their community and an advocate of equality for all students.
“Although this was a decision that the department did not take lightly, we have been clear that antisemitism must be stamped out of the sector and are treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness.”
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he was “seriously concerned” at the number of reports of alleged antisemitism linked to the NUS.
“Jewish students need to have confidence that this is a body that represents them, and we need to be sure that the student bodies that we engage with are speaking fairly for all students, which is why we are disengaging with the NUS until the issues have been addressed,” he said.
The DfE said it was also “deeply concerned” about the social media postings by the NUS president-elect, Shaima Dallali, who is vocal defender of Palestinian rights.
In response, the NUS said it was “disappointed” the government had announced the move through a press release rather than seeking to engage with it directly.
“We have sought to undertake the investigation in a serious and proper way, and are working in collaboration with UJS (Union of Jewish Students) at every step of the way,” a spokesman said.
He added they looked forward to working “constructively” with the government on the matter.
Meanwhile, former NUS president Zamzam Ibrahim tweeted: “The National Union of Students has a long history of fighting for the very basic human rights your government has denied us. But talking about defunding a national union that you do not fund or even engage with says a lot.
“The NUS have currently embarked on an investigation which must precede any action in order to inform the steps to be taken, but this is not a government concerned about equality or discrimination.
“This is a government that is starving children, freezing pensioners and battering protestors. It is a government in crisis that is continuing to threaten collectivism and solidarity. This is another example of that.”