A piece in yesterday’s Sunday Times:
Universities should “decolonise” the curriculum to end the dominance of “white western values and beliefs”, according to advice published by their new regulator.
It is the first time the Office for Students (OfS) has lent its support to those behind campaigns such as Rhodes Must Fall and Why Is My Curriculum White? and to demands to move undergraduate studies away from “dead white men”.
New guidance on the OfS website calls for strategies to “decolonise the curriculum”. It recommends addressing “how the values, norms, thinking, beliefs and practices that frame the curriculum perpetuate white westernised hegemony and position anything non-European and not white as inferior”.
Universities are now changing their courses. Black, female and LGBT authors are being added to reading lists, papers on race are being included in exams and academics are being trained to overcome any unconscious bias. [J4MB emphasis. William Collins’s piece on unconscious bias is here.]
At Cambridge the sociology department plans not only to include non-white, non-European authors but also to “prioritise their work”. The suggested reading for sociology for entry in 2015 comprised five books, four of them by white men. The 2019 list has 12 books: six are by women and five of the authors are black and minority ethnic (BME). [J4MB emphasis]
At Kingston University, a degree course on rural Britain has been overhauled because it had “normalised white experiences”. BME students were “less likely” to visit the countryside, according to the university, so they could struggle to grasp concepts such as the “rural idyll”.
Instead, undergraduates are to study rural areas globally, with an emphasis on Africa and Asia.
At Oxford students are being urged to study black heroes such as Steve Biko, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Stuart Hall, as well as the recent Windrush scandal, for an undergraduate history degree that has moved away from a narrow focus on British and European history. A new “global history” module is compulsory.
Robert Gildea, professor of modern history at Oxford, said: “Black and ethnic minority students are being encouraged to apply to Oxford with the idea that, once they are here, they will recognise themselves and what interests them in the syllabus. If a student arrived to do a degree that was all about the Anglo-Saxons and the Tudors and Winston Churchill, they might think: what is in this for me?
“We have made huge changes, but of course it is a work in progress. The students are driving this and forcing people like me to sharpen up our act.”
The OfS said: “These are recommendations from an independent piece of research and do not represent guidance from the OfS. We do, though, think it is essential universities tackle gaps in attainment between ethnic groups.”
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