Lecturers have voted unanimously to boycott government plans to tackle 'extremism' on college campuses.
They had been asked to monitor and report suspicious behaviour amongst Muslim students but at the University and Colleges Union annual conference in Bournemouth, delegates rejected the move, saying it amounted to spying on students.
The UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said lecturers could not be asked to watch students in this way. "You can't learn if someone is going to tell tales on you, it doesn't work like that," said Ms Hunt.
"Lecturers have a pivotal role in building trust. These proposals, if implemented, would make that all but impossible.
"Universities must remain safe spaces for lecturers and students to discuss and debate all sorts of ideas, including those that some people may consider challenging, offensive and even extreme.
"The last thing we need is people too frightened to discuss an issue because they fear some quasi-secret service will turn them in."
The motion debated at the UCU conference called for members to "resist attempts by government to engage colleges and universities in activities which amount to increased surveillance of Muslim or other minority students and to the use of members of staff for such witch-hunts."
It was put forward by university lecturers in London, who warned such a move would damage the trust between staff and students. The academics said that although they would report illegal activity, they would not act as detectives.