Decolonising the Curriculum Hub

Demonstration at a Black Lives Matter protest, crowd of people holding up signsThis decolonising the curriculum hub shares examples of good practice, offers guidance about steps you can take, and details activities to get involved in.
It is part of the inclusivity in learning and teaching priorities for 2020-2021 and the University’s Race Equality Strategy and Action Plan. The work is supported by the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Committee.
Elevate can support you with workshops, events and bespoke sessions.

We also have a toolkit that offers tips and examples from colleagues in Sheffield:

Decolonising the Curriculum Toolkit



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Why is my curriculum white?

This powerful video was produced by students from UCL, and helped to start off the ongoing campaign that questions 'whiteness', Eurocentric domination and a lack of diversity in the curricula.

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Decolonising the Curriculum - a definition for the University of Sheffield

Decolonising the curriculum is an ongoing process which critically assesses and contextualises the arguments and assumptions of Western thought within all disciplines. It is not simply the integration of minority ethnic academics, scientists and scholars into syllabi, but it does prompt us to actively consider the incorporation into curricula of historically marginalised or suppressed knowledge.

To read more

Central to this work is the recognition that knowledge systems are marked by existing power relations which are themselves rooted within a history of colonialism. A Eurocentric epistemology presents white, global North intellectual traditions as superior and universal and places the West to be origin and originator of knowledge and development. This continues to reinforce white dominance and privilege, whilst at the same time reinforcing stereotypes and prejudices about non-white people and culture, the basis of which underpin the attitudes and behaviours of contemporary racism.

Decolonisation does not deliver a set of prescriptions but is instead a set of suggestions and ideas for colleagues and students to think through, both individually and collectively. Each faculty within The University of Sheffield will take forward this work in the way that maximises its impact on their subject areas. The practice of decolonisation will have profound implications with regards to the presentation and content of the curricula, methods of teaching and research, outreach practices and institutional structures.

As a University, we recognise that the knowledge directly and indirectly produced within our institution goes beyond the academic sphere. At the centre of this work is our aim for staff and students to engage within an inclusive learning environment, which is representative of all cultural backgrounds, but also equips them with the knowledge and skills to dismantle structural inequalities and institutional racism.

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Sharing good practice

Colleagues across the University have produced a range of work on decolonising the curriculum that is most relevant to their discipline.

Faculty of Engineering

The Faculty have produced a case study for their Global Engineering Challenge - a project-based assignment for all students that addresses decolonising the curriculum as well as more general inclusivity and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The Department of Mechanical Engineering has produced some basic inclusivity guidance that is a good starting point for classroom practice, and a reading list for Decolonising the Curriculum for their Diversity Discussion Group.

Faculty of Science

The APS Decolonising the Curriculum Working Group has produced a website that includes a guide that explores decolonisation and offers practical steps from a science teaching perspective. They also give some great examples in the blog section of their site

Applying a decolonial framework to teaching and research in ecology and evolution

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Rachel van Duyvenbode and student intern Mubeenah Waheed produced a magazine with case studies, student views and a definition of decolonisation.

Decolonising the curriculum - In conversation

The faculty has a Decolonising the Curriculum Framework and a Google site.
Colleagues in the Department of History detail a guest lecture by a museum curator of a decolonising exhibition at Portico Museum, Manchester on this webpage.

Faculty of Social Sciences

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee produced a report based on a study of 4 departments (Geography, Politics, Sociological Studies, & the Management School), led by Tony Williams, that recommends action at faculty, department and individual level.

Decolonising the curriculum in the Faculty of Social Sciences

Their race equality web page also provides links to a range of useful material, including a conversation entitled Do our biases need to be addressed to tackle racial inequalities?

There are also examples of good practice from the Faculty.

Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health

Medical School

Staff-student race equality working group started with three workstreams:

  • Tackling racial harassment and bullying
  • Understanding the BAME medical student experience
  • Decolonising the curriculum

Staff and students are collaborating to end racist exclusions in the learning environment and to ensure the diversification of the curriculum in terms of decolonising and reflecting the BAME patient experience.

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The student voice

"Can the department integrate research from many different geographical areas …. helping international students to develop a focus on things they are familiar with [and] share it with the rest of the students so we can all increase our knowledge and understanding of the different realities from all over the world?"
Marina Chorro Giner, Archeology student

Students have been active campaigners on the subject of decolonisation, for instance the Rhodes Must Fall and Why is my curriculum white? campaigns. You can work with your students through classroom discussions, working with student reps and setting classroom tasks and assignments that further decolonise your subject. These ‘authentic learning’ workstreams could include asking students to suggest alternative reading lists, or doing projects that feature BAME people, or bodies of work, or more diverse subjects. See the Student Engagement web pages for more information.

Close up of black women at a demonstration

I had never directly addressed how race operates in the classroom, or in the University as an institution. I therefore applied the concept of decolonising by encouraging students to consider who was racialised (and how) and analysed white privilege and effects of structural racism

veronica barnsley, english

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Top Tips - the most impactful actions that will benefit your students

  1. Read the resources, from Sheffield and elsewhere in your discipline to see what your peers are doing.
  2. Use the toolkit for more prompts and examples.
  3. Think about the changes you could make - a gradual approach is likely to work best.
  4. Work with your students - many are keen advocates of decolonising the curriculum and can offer fresh insights.
  5. Stay in touch - let us know what you are doing.

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Events and getting involved

Upcoming events

Elevate offers bespoke support for departments on any teaching related subject.

We also offer 1-1 support and advice sessions for colleagues.

How can I get involved?

If you have a good practice example you would like to share, please use the Directory of Good Practice form:

Directory of Good Practice form

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Further information

Further reading These resources from other universities offer helpful insights across a broad range of disciplines.