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Amplifying the voice of Muslim students

Findings from literature review

Muslim ladies
Published: October 2011


The study was commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and aimed to both estimate the number and distribution of Muslim students in England, and to explore their experiences and attitudes.


We were able to estimate that there are 167,763 Muslim students in the UK, making up 6 per cent of the total student population (based on the 2001 census) and we found that a significant minority of Muslim students felt that university provision did not meet their specific religious or cultural needs.

We found that experiences of prejudice were not uncommon. There is a perception that Islamophobia increased following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 11 2001, helped by negative portrayals of Muslims in the media. Some incidents of Islamophobia happened on campus, where the perception was that this sort of discrimination was more tolerated than sexism, racism or homophobia. Muslim women experienced more Islamophobia than Muslim men.

We found that religion was of central importance in shaping the self-identity of many Muslim students, although the literature is divided on whether the current generation of young Muslims is more religious than its predecessors. We also found that the majority of Muslim students felt it was possible to be equally British and Muslim.

We found that many young Muslims contested much of the terminology used in relation to Islam. Terrorism or ‘extremism’ was contested among young Muslims and many challenge the conventional interpretation of such terms: e.g. they do not primarily associate ‘radicalism’ with violence or they have different interpretations of the ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’.


This was a literature review with three main methods being used to identify relevant books, research reports, and reviews for inclusion in the review:

  • A database and internet search, including a search of the major education
    databases (e.g. the British Education Index), general social science databases (e.g. the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences), and the websites of key organisations, think tanks and institutions.
  • Exploration of key statistical portals (e.g. ONS, HESA, UCAS, Census 2001).
  • Consultation with Dr Sara Silvestri and our other collaborators.

Read the report