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New report calls for the decolonisation of universities in order address a ‘silent crisis’

  • 23 July 2020

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has published a new report with original testimony and practical guidance for UK universities on decolonising higher education. The report establishes that the decolonisation of UK universities is vital for the improvement of course curricula, pedagogical practice, staff wellbeing and the student experience. 

Miseducation: decolonising curricula, culture and pedagogy in UK universities by Mia Liyanage is based on over 20 hours of interviews with leading figures in academia, student activism and higher education policy. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Ensuring a better understanding of decolonisation and ending its conflation with equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • Prioritising decolonisation in order to expand the curriculum and improve both teaching and course content.
  • Increasing Government and university funding for BAME research and BAME-only scholarships.
  • Tackling discrimination, hostility and unconscious bias against those working on decolonisation.
  • Creating departmental roles to work specifically on issues relating to anti-racism and the decolonising of their department.
  • Establishing channels for collaboration on these issues between students and faculty.

Sixteen contributors were interviewed for the report. These include: lecturers; a Vice Chancellor; officers at students’ unions, including the NUS; undergraduate activists; and policy advisers to universities. The contributors are listed in full at the start of the report.

Mia Liyanage, author of the report and Master’s student at the University of Oxford, said:

This report is a vital resource for universities amid current calls for anti-racist reform. Miseducation contains powerful testimony from experts, and from staff and students of colour, who describe a silent crisis in our universities.

Anti-racism demands more from us than diversity – decolonisation is the crucial next step for our institutions. Meaningful change requires commitment, for which this report provides a clear roadmap.

In the Foreword to the report, Professor Iyiola Solanke, Professor of EU Law and Social Justice at University of Leeds and founder of the Black Female Professors Forum, said:

As set out in this important report, adoption of the decolonisation agenda must embrace all aspects of higher education – including pedagogy –  so that key social and political institutions, such as the police, can in all aspects be reflective of the population that they serve.

An outdated euro-centrism, that no longer reflects the world in which graduates will live and work, must not be allowed to dominate in our classrooms or in the country.

Notes for Editors

  1. The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) was established in 2002 to shape the higher education policy debate through evidence. It is the United Kingdom’s only independent think tank devoted to higher education. HEPI is a non-partisan charity funded in part by organisations and universities that wish to see a vibrant higher education debate.
  2. HEPI has previously published research on racial equality, including The white elephant in the room: ideas for reducing racial inequalities in higher education

4 comments

  1. This report is necessary and timely to keep the momentum going in decolonising universities. One degree always overlooked is the MA Black British Writing which has been running for 5 years co-convened by Prof. Joan Anim-Addo and Dr Deirdre Osborne at Goldsmiths. It is the only degree in the world focusing on black British literature. Why is it overlooked? It is a truly decolonised degree and yet no mention is ever made of it. All of its students past and present would be happy to speak about it as a model of what can be achieved.

  2. albert wright says:

    The case for a rebalancing of the politics of history needs to be handled carefully.

    What happened, happened and by all means we can change the way we think about this and the way history has been written so far and who we now see as the “goodies” and the “baddies”.

    However, we must not change the facts.

    Nor do we need extra funds. Universities need to reallocate their budgets and not be given more money.

    Most organisation recognise that funding new activities usually requires cutting out some old activities.

  3. albert wright says:

    How far do we need to go back?

    Didn’t the Romans colonise Britain?

    Didn’t the Vikings change the lives of Britain’s inhabitants at the time?

    What about the Norman French after 1066?

    How should we decolonise these periods?

    Should skin colour be the primary litmus test?

  4. Angela Ritchie says:

    Albert Wright – yes, lets look at all these examples of colonialism. UK schools and universities would do well to shape their evolving role into the 21st Century by sharing the facts of colonialism and exploitation, to especially educate about British atrocities and the evolving Commonwealth. This is fundamental to the discussion about decolonialism in my opinion and ought to be started in an age-appropriate manner at primary school.

    My undergraduate degree ‘International Development’ at UEA, Norwich included Economics, Natural Resources and Politics of ‘Less Economically Developed’ countries. Yet not once at school or in Higher Education was ‘colonialism’ openly discussed.

    As part of my undergraduate course I studied at University of Cape Town, South Africa. Since apartheid ended, their International Student Office had operated for 10 years and I was the first British student to participate as an ‘International Student’. During my time there I was frequently shocked and embarrassed at my ignorance of the effect of 20th Century British imperialism and continued British arrogance and lack of interest in sharing of these facts within the Education sector. My education has entirely failed to prepare me as a’Global Citizen’.

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