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The traditional definition of decolonisation is to withdraw from a colonised country, i.e. the dismantling of the empire. For the UK this was done after WWII when countries such as India, Kenya, etc. gained independence. In educational settings, decolonisation refers to the dismantling of the Western ideologies presented to students and the acknowledgement of the culture, thinking and philosophies of other peoples. 

Textbooks, teaching materials and teaching sessions can all be inclined towards Western, European or even British thinking and therefore not always appropriate for an international university. The challenge therefore is to ensure that teaching is inclusive to all cultures and exposes learners to ideas and thinking from around the world, in order to make learning a more socially and culturally robust experience for all students. 

Best Practice Tips

  • Acknowledge that knowledge is a shared resource to which all cultures have contributed and not a solely Western-centric phenomenon. 
  • Recognise that, historically, knowledge and teaching in, and in many places outside, the Western world has been directed towards one particular group, i.e. Western males, and vestiges of this may persist.
  • Develop learning materials and teaching sessions which are wholly inclusive to all cultures, comparing examples where possible. But be mindful not to develop stereotypes of particular groups or cultures. 
  • Provide a safe space in which these cultural differences can be discussed between learners to facilitate a better understanding of expectations and differences. 
  • No one person or group has ownership over decolonisation. It is a shared responsibility between staff and students. 
  • Support and encourage challenges to current thinking in light of decolonisation. 
  • Foster a community of dignity, respect and understanding for all cultures. 
  • Ensure that the material used in teaching is balanced across all societies and cultures

Further Reading and Resources

Durham University Business School’s Decolonising the Curriculum Toolkit (also includes links to other departments’ decolonisation work)

LSE Podcast (2019), ‘Decolonising the curricula: why necessary and why now’.

SOAS Blog (2017), ‘Decolonising the curriculum: what’s all the fuss about?’.