Decolonizing the Curriculum Project (DCP) at UoK (funded by Teaching Enhancement Award and led by Dr Suhraiya Jivraj, Senior Lecturer in Law)

Students are increasingly demanding a ‘liberated curriculum’ that represents their diversity as we see from #liberatemydegree, ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ and other movements mentioned above as well as Kent Student Union campaign ‘Diversify My Curriculum’. Also at UoK law and politics students on the Race, Religion and Law module (convened by Dr Suhraiya Jivraj) have relished the opportunity both in workshops and through their assessment to explore both historical and contemporary issues that enable them to acquire ‘consciousness of their own position and struggle’ in society and education. The UoK EDI Project phase II strategy acknowledges this need in affirming that the ‘white curriculum acts as a barrier to inclusivity’ including because ‘it fails to legitimise contributions to knowledge from people of colour’. Phase II therefore seeks to ensure that ‘our curriculum reflects and addresses a range of perspectives’ and asks how this can be operationalised specifically at UoK. Modules like RRL and others in KLS are already operationalising a more inclusive curriculum requiring students to engage with key works from critical race/religion and decolonial studies which offer alternative perspectives to those heteronormative and euro-centric perspectives of white, able-bodied men dominating the western canon. This project will go one significant step further by placing students of colour as well as knowledge produced by people of colour at the centre. Being a student led project is crucial as it empowers them to become change actors and co-producers of knowledge, shaping the agenda and curriculum that seeks to include them. Moreover, it enables them to be ‘assets’ rather than see themselves represented as quantitative data in University diversity reports which does not capture the nuance and complexity of their lived realities.  Empowerment for self-determination at the grassroots level is key as is apparent from student led movements that have already effected change in the curriculum.

 The desire for self and culturally intelligible knowledge is now well documented including in the University of Kent, Student Success (EDI) Project, Phase I:Report 2 ‘Theory and research on race and attainment in UK higher education’ by Hensby and Mitton (2017). This project seeks to operationalise this further and more broadly through the following three interlinked activities:

1)     Focus groups:

·       Up to five stage 3 students will lead focus groups of five to ten BAME students from across the KLS UG programme.

·       The focus group leaders will form a research team and design the format and questions collaboratively, under the supervision of Dr Jivraj, using naturalistic methods and going through the KLS ethics approval process.

2)     Publication of findings:

·       The data from the focus groups will be collated by the research team and will produce an accessible output such as a ‘manifesto of suggestions’ on making the curriculum more inclusive and a co-authored e-book.

·       The research team will also be supported in publishing findings via a blog  and social media.

3)     Student led conference

·       The workshop committee will organise a half day student led conference to discuss the findings and invite speakers from campaigns such as the NUS #liberatemydegree campaign; Why is My Curriculum White? (based at UCL); Decolonising our Minds SOAS; and the #Rhodesmustfall student movements and at least one academic speaker. Watch this space for further details.