The call to ‘decolonise’ our social spaces and learning environments is closely linked to the ongoing call for equality, recognition of diversity and more sustainable ways of life across the globe. Our university – like many others – seeks to uncover and change the biases that can lie hidden in university life around race, culture and ethnicity, that are linked to our histories of colonisation.
We are tackling this through an initiative led by our academic schools that draws on the experiences of staff and students in our Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic + Network, working closely with our Equality & Diversity Manager and our Sustainability Team. The Decolonising Learning project is funded by LIFT – Learning Innovation for Tomorrow – our university-wide programme to advance sustainability – which has included decolonising learning as one of its key principles since it began.
How we see decolonisation
The term ‘decolonisation’ is open to different interpretations but our project team has agreed these shared principles for its ambitions and activities:
- Recognising privileges and advantages of the dominant cultural group – and how this plays out in academic experiences
- Decentring western knowledge frameworks – enriching and contextualising learning by adding other cultural perspectives
- Focusing on structural change not just individual actions – to counter tokenism and hijacking of the big picture change agenda
- Directly challenging racist and biased practice – and evaluating and improving results from the interventions we have made
- Understanding the whole university scope of decolonisation – e.g. formal and hidden curricula, student support services, partnerships
Project aims and activities
The Decolonising Learning project aims not just to remove the barriers to success for our BAME students and staff and to improve our awarding gap. Decolonisation enriches the academic opportunities we create in our whole university community, bringing forward new research and knowledge, and developing global awareness that will extend to our professional lives.
Key activities in the early stages of this project have been:
Staff dialogue sessions – exploring views and priorities with teams who can deliver change. We have held sessions at our Festival of Learning, Sustainable Development Goals research conference, with our executive and quality and registry teams. We are now moving on to targeted sessions across our academic schools suited to their portfolio and needs.
Changing learning spaces – we plan to expand the culturally diverse messaging in our formal and informal spaces on campus, to bring a more positive and encouraging environment for all to learn in and benefit from. Plans currently on hold until lockdown guidelines are lifted.