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Decolonising the Curriculum

Explore a variety of Decolonising the Curriculum (DTC) examples and resources from both inside and beyond LJMU

Efforts to decolonise the curriculum have been ongoing for several decades (particularly in the ‘Global South’) to ensure that the knowledge and practices of all people are valued and included in post-colonial higher education curricula. Decolonising the curriculum was highlighted more recently during the 'Rhodes Must Fall' campaign in Cape Town, South Africa, and Oxford, UK in 2015. These events, together with student union campaigns that followed, prompted UK universities to consider how to begin to decolonise their curricula.

Decolonisation is the process of recognising and addressing processes of power, relationships, and institutions and how they have shaped, and continue to impact, modern society. This can include recognising that the knowledge being taught in the curriculum is mainly Western, white and Anglo-centric and describing why that is and the bias and inequality it creates. It also entails ensuring the information and perspectives taught are diversified and reflect the importance of minority and indigenous (and subaltern) perspectives in research. This conversation on decolonial praxis with Dr Javier Pereda may provide a useful introduction.

One reason why decolonising the curriculum is of urgent importance in higher education, besides campaigning for social justice, is the long-standing ethnicity awarding gap, commonly known as the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic group (BAME*) Attainment Gap. According to the Office for Students, the percentage of home students in England receiving a good (first or 2:1) degree was 22 percentage points lower for black students than for white students in July 2020. This awarding gap particularly limits Black students’ access to postgraduate research degrees, and therefore, decolonising the curriculum should be seen as part of a wider strategy to improve representation of BAME students in postgraduate research.

Decolonial work is starting to take place at LJMU; see how our work started; the Decolonising the Curriculum Working Group was established in 2021 with the goal of coordinating activities, facilitating advancement, and sharing good practice across the university. Their vision is “To spotlight privilege, inequality and to decolonise the systems of thought, working practices, curricula and cultures within the university”. Please see the link above for more information. An important step has been the consideration of decolonising the curriculum within Academic Quality and Standards and the inclusion of decolonising the curriculum in Programme Validation and Periodic Programme Review templates by the Academic Registry. This signals decolonising the curriculum as a priority for the university and provides the opportunity for programmes to begin developing action.

Initial approaches to taking steps to decolonise the curriculum within Schools may include:

  • Coordinating with the School's decolonising the curriculum working group representative (as listed in the tabs below)
  • Creating a School working group of staff and students
  • Supporting staff self-education, reflection, and awareness about the importance of decolonising the curriculum, what it means to them, to their field, and to the School
  • Obtaining and reviewing data on student access/recruitment, retention, attainment gaps progression, and any available measures of inclusion and belonging
  • Engaging staff and students to think critically with a decolonial lens when developing module content, teaching, learning, and assessment
  • Identifying an appropriate toolkit (if relevant) to conduct an audit of programmes and student views
  • Creating a long-term School strategy from 2021 to 2025 (in line with the LJMU Access and Participation Plan 2019/20 - 2024/25) to evidence working towards to decolonising curriculum content, teaching, learning and assessment, and addressing inequalities in recruitment, attainment, continuation and progression.

*We recognise there are caveats and limitations to the acronym “BAME” but we follow the position statement put forward by the Wellcome Trust

This microsite has been developed by a collective of staff along with student interns (supported by the LJMU Teaching and Learning Academy) and the Decolonising The Curriculum Working Group. Feedback and suggestions for content from all staff and students is welcome: decolonising@ljmu.ac.uk.