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Decolonising across the Sociology, Politics and International Studies Curriculum: A whole school approach

The article builds on the video case study in the previous step to outline key elements of the whole school approach.
© University of Bristol

This summer, following renewed and intensified global demands for universities to decolonise, students within the University of Bristol’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) took steps to start our own decolonial process. Our preliminary report, Decolonising the SPAIS Curriculum: Evaluating Mandatory Units, consists of an assessment of SPAIS’ mandatory undergraduate and postgraduate modules, analysing the diversity of essential reading, and the extent to which colonialism, postcolonialism, decolonialism and intersecting topics formed elements of module content.

To do so, our analysis included calculating the percentage of essential readings and scoring for the gender, ethnicity, and institution location (global north or south) of the authors. In terms of ethnicity, the report measured the percentage of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic authors compared to white and, where possible, specified ethnicities in order to avoid the flattening effect of this term. Additionally, we measured gender using binary male and female genders. To measure how LQBTQ+ inclusive the curriculum is, further analysis could include trans and non-binary genders and an additional variable of sexuality. In addition, content was reviewed via qualitative analysis that included attention to the nuances of prioritisation and chronology of key ideas and authors to identify how ‘decolonised’ modules were. Using a ‘traffic light analysis’ of the modules, modules were scored allowing units to be summarised to measure programmes and make comparisons across both modules and subjects. Based on this analysis, the report proposes a set of recommendations for module owners and SPAIS Programme Directors.

Decolonising the SPAIS curriculum is an ongoing process of learning and unlearning, for everyone. Whilst our preliminary report has its limitations, it has provided a framework for acknowledging and challenging the colonial legacies that continue to inform our curriculum. Despite some initial staff resistance to the report, it has since been discussed by the school Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and the school Senior Management Team. As a result, decolonisation has moved up the agenda of the school, with the promise of a staff away day in Summer 2021 to review units and implement changes to decolonise the SPAIS curriculum. In the interim, there will be an increased prioritisation of opening a dialogue between staff and students across SPAIS about decolonising. To begin this dialogue, a @decolUoB Twitter and Facebook group has been set up. If successfully implemented, these measures will address some of the key recommendations of the report.

To further our work towards decolonising SPAIS, we are currently working on three projects: a set of media resources outlining the concept of decolonising; reimagining and designing our own ‘decolonised’ curriculum; a second report which analyses lecture content, essential readings and assessments, as well as an extra-curricular reading group for staff and students alike from all levels of study. Our work – informed by the efforts of activists and students who have come before us – has provided space for collective action and hope for reimagining a liberated way of learning

© University of Bristol
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Decolonising Education: From Theory to Practice

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