About the Project
At London South Bank University (LSBU), a Decolonising Vision has been agreed and is in the process of being firmly embedded across the institution. The first statement of the vision acts as a guide:
‘LSBU recognises the role that race, racism and racialisation have played within the Higher Education sector, and we will reject it, stand against it and be actively antiracist’LSBU’s Vision Statements
The starting point will be to decolonise our minds, moving to a multi-layered dynamic process of reviewing and evaluating processes, resources, and academic practices (teaching, support and assessment) through this widened critical lens. Decolonisation is identifying and acknowledging the roots of modern racism and colonial legacies and its manifestation in multiple forms: knowledge materials, politics, national and local institutions, social and cultural processes (Bhambra et al 2018). Decolonising learning helps us to recognise, understand, and challenge the ways in which our world is shaped by colonialism. The work of decolonisation is multi-layered and works towards structural change (Liyanage 2020). At its heart, decolonising is about widening our ambition, organisational transformation and about everyone committing to change. In contrast to the misrepresentations of work on decolonising, this will not just benefit the few but benefit all students by adding to and enhancing the curriculum and embedding justice and equity in the curriculum as normative. By adding to the authors, approaches and case studies in our curricula, this approach will enhance the impact of our education, by speaking to lived experience and preparing our students for career success in a global context. Our disciplines will themselves be stronger and more relevant by building their foundations on a wider base of scholarship.
The Three Pillars of Decolonising the University
Professor Leon Tikly (2021) from Bristol University states that there are three pillars of decolonising the university:
- Decolonising the curriculum
- Democratising the university
- Decolonising research
Click here for more information
The History of Decolonisation
Decolonisation debates have a particular resonance for universities and decolonising the curriculum is not a new phenomenon – it has a history. The timeline shows its origins in South Africa from the Rhodes Must Fall movement which was replicated at Oxford University to the NUS film (2019) Why is my curriculum white? A review of curricula to decolonise has been recognised by a range of universities, who under pressure from students and staff thought leaders have led the way. The current campaign to decolonise the curriculum is a recognition that this history needs rectification. For a brief history please click here.
Decolonising the Curriculum at LSBU
It is important to define what we mean by decolonising the curriculum and at LSBU we believe that it considers the institution, staff and students. A curriculum provides a way of identifying the knowledge we value. It structures the ways in which we are taught to think and talk about the world. As education has become increasingly global, communities have challenged the widespread assumption that the most valuable knowledge and the most valuable ways of teaching and learning come from a single Western centric tradition.
Decolonising the curriculum should form part of the practice as usual process of curriculum review and quality assurance. Decolonising the curriculum is explained as enhancing the curriculum by including knowledges and people from underrepresented, marginalised or excluded groups. Such as knowledge and representation of staff and students from the Global South, disability, LGBTQIA plus, Romani and more population groups.
There are many ways to approach decolonising the curriculum but there are commonalities in what is done:
- educate staff and students about decolonisation
- create safe spaces for open discussion and support for staff and students
- encourage co-production between staff, students and local community to review, reframe and make impactful change regarding, admissions, syllabus, reading resources, clinical training placements, preparing students for the workforce and more.
- collectively decide on the measures for evaluating changes made and decide on how regularly to monitor.
Decolonising the curriculum has been identified as the key to change to a ‘decolonising learning’ over the next decade by The Innovating Pedagogy Report (2019):
‘A curriculum provides a way of identifying the knowledge we value. It structures the ways in which we are taught to think and talk about the world. As education has become increasingly global, communities have challenged the widespread assumption that the most valuable knowledge and the most valuable ways of teaching and learning come from a single European tradition. Decolonizing learning prompts us to consider everything we study from new perspectives. It draws attention to how often the only world view presented to learners is male, white, and European […] Decolonizing learning helps us to recognize, understand, and challenge the ways in which our world is shaped by colonialism. It also prompts us to examine our professional practices. It is an approach that includes indigenous knowledge and ways of learning, enabling students to explore themselves and their values and to define success on their own terms.’The Innovating Pedagogy Report (2019)
LSBU Vision Statements
1. LSBU recognises the role that race, racism and racialisation have played within the Higher Education sector and we will reject it, stand against it and be actively antiracist
2. LSBU will engage our students as partners, working closely, collaboratively and openly to change the hierarchy by flattening the lines of communication to experts and senior staff, making them more accessible for collaborative working.
3. LSBU will pay a noteworthy role in the sector to develop both aspiration and tools for new decolonised approaches.
4. LSBU will support the challenging implementation of the vision to lead to sustainable structural change in policies and practices.
5. This vision on tackling racism and inequity in the curricula will be aligned with LSBU’s EDI strategies.
6. Recognising that colleagues will have different capabilities and are at different stages of engagement with the debate, LSBU will support all colleagues to engage with the decolonised vision.
7. LSBU expects all course to engage with and reflect on whether they are meeting the principles of our inclusive and decolonised vision.
8. We will change our teaching and learning, building globally relevant inclusive curricula, including student voices in the way that we teach.
Three Pillars of Decolonising the University
Decolonising the curriculum – reviewing and reframing current content to disrupt the dominance of western centric knowledge and colonial structures in learning and teaching, readdressing who is delivering what and why, cocreating curriculum, assessment content and reading resources with students and other stakeholders.
Democratising the university – widening participation and access such as reviewing and reframing admissions and staff hiring processes, study skills support, preparing students for employment, diversifying the students and staff population, listening to students and staff and acting on feedback, bringing in the local and Global South communities to as partners, leaders role modelling and enabling decolonised culture change by allocating money and resources and making this a permanent agenda item at board. Decolonising research – being prepared to work with different groups of people an individuals rather than on them which has been the extractivist colonial approach to research, review and disrupt funding strategies which favours awarding to white research leads, recruiting a diversity of research supervisors and panels.
Brief History of Decolonising the University and Curriculum
Decolonisation debates have a particular resonance for universities and decolonising the curriculum is not a new phenomenon. The #RhodesmMustFall movement is formed of students and university staff of the University of Cape Town to expose and take collective action against institutional racism. The movement was instigated by the act of Chumani Maxwele, a student at the university. On the 9 March, 2015 Chumani picked up a bucket of faeces which was left at the kerbside by people from the Black township of Khayelitsha, as once a week the government sanitation department picked up the buckets. Chumani felt that apartheid was still affecting the Black people of the country in the main, even though apartheid was no longer the strategy of the political system. That day, with the bucket of faeces he walked to the centre of the university where the statue of imperialist and colonial political Cecil Rhodes, one of the architects of apartheid. He climbed the statue and emptied the bucket of faeces on the head and face of the statue shouting “Where are our heroes and ancestors?” to the crowd that had gathered.
In October 2015, the #FeesMustFall movement started at the University of Witwaterswand and spread the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University. The movement wanted to stop university fees increasing and campaign for increase of funding for socioeconomic disadvantage groups to improve equitable access to education. These movements spread the decolonising universities and curricula agenda from South Africa all over the world, and indeed to the United Kingdom. A review of curricula to change using the critical lens of decolonisation has been recognised by a range of universities, who under pressure from students and staff thought leaders have begun the decolonisation process for equity and justice. The current campaign to decolonise the curriculum is a recognition that the continuing inequities in education due to the impact of the legacies from colonial history needs rectification.
Furthermore, the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 highlighted again the structures that enable inequity, oppression and socioeconomic disadvantage of ethnic, marginalised and underrepresented groups. There is a reckoning movement in society for disrupting the recycling of the status quo of inequity and injustice in society which includes higher education.
Meet the Team
This website was created as part of the What Works Project funded by LSBU by the following team:
Associate Professor of Sociology
Senior Lecturer in Criminology
Director of Education and Student Experience
Lecturer in Criminology
The project set out to listen to the student experience on decolonisation of the curriculum and complements research carried out in the previous year on the racial awarding gap. Both issues have been on the political map for some time and it is significantly important that the student voice is heard and that an anti-racist approach in universities as centres of knowledge is adopted. We are proponents of the aim to decolonise the curriculum and we take the position that this process requires access to resources which actively supports both the efforts of staff and students towards this goal.
The whole process of decolonisation is often underestimated and not acted upon due to lack of time but it is important as to have student input to pedagogical decisions and practices which are steps towards inclusivity. We believe that critical conversations, reading and learning, and co-produced resources can all contribute to an institution better equipped to deliver the kind of pedagogical practice which will contribute to narrowing the racial awarding gap, as part of the wider aim to decolonise the curriculum.