‘Decolonise’ universities to end ‘silent crisis’ in higher education, report says


The report argues that courses could be changed to end an ‘outdated euro-centrism’ in academia

Universities must be “decolonised” in order to address a “silent crisis” in UK higher education, according to a report.

The report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank argues that courses should be changed to end an “outdated euro-centrism” in academia.

And it criticises universities lumping together decolonisation with “diversity” initiatives.

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Decolonisation entails a fundamental re-evaluation of the existing forms of teaching, learning and pastoral support in higher education,” the report says.

‘Unequal social structures’

“It is about acknowledging the ways in which our institutions reproduce unequal social structures – so it is a larger project than simply the diversification of courses, for example.”

The report calls for increased government and university funding for black and ethnic minority (Bame) research, as well as Bame-only scholarships.

It also calls for action to “tackle discrimination, hostility and unconscious bias” against people working on decolonisation, amid claims that they are subject to “animosity” from white colleagues.

Student activists and staff members interviewed for the report said they had experienced hostility. “I think decolonisation generally is both kind of belittled and mocked, and really hated on quite a deep level,” one activist said.

“There’s just this real resistance in the sector, and that is ingrained and embedded in whiteness. And it’s the imperial views and attitudes which are stopping this work,” a staff member said.

‘Outdated euro-centrism’

The report urges universities to hire at least one staff member per department to “work specifically on issues pertaining to the decolonisation of their department”.

Professor Iyiola Solanke, Professor of EU Law and Social Justice at University of Leeds, in a foreword to the report said: “An outdated euro-centrism, that no longer reflects the world in which graduates will live and work, must not be allowed to dominate in our classrooms or in the country.”

There have been renewed calls for decolonisation of schools and universities in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Last month campaigners scored a victory when governors at Oriel College in Oxford said they intended to remove a statue of the 19th century colonialist Cecil Rhodes.

Decolonisation has provoked debate, with some critics arguing it is part of a “woke” agenda which stifles free speech and academic enquiry.

In 2018 the universities minister Sam Gyimah cautioned against universities “phasing out parts of the curriculum that just happen to be unpopular or unfashionable”.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said: “No one should seek to infringe upon the academic freedom of educators to assign the texts they consider the most appropriate for a rigorous and high quality education.

“Students deserve the opportunity to study a wide and diverse range of topics at university and learn about how Britain became the nation it is today. It is also vital that we do not seek to censor or edit our past but instead remember and learn from it.”