News Editor Charlie O’Keeffe reports on the QAA’s suggestion that university courses should be decolonised

Written by Charlie O'Keeffe
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The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has put out statements which include advice that Universities should decolonise their curriculum. QAA’s advice regarding this comes as part of 25 ‘subject benchmarks’, which outline what the standards the agency courses should meet, which the agency does not right but facilitates the process by which staff, students and others from the relevant subject areas can put forward their thoughts.

One statement advised that Geography courses should acknowledge ‘racism, classism, ableism, homophobia and patriarchy’. They suggest that computing courses should address how ‘hierarchies of colonial value’ are ‘replicated’ and ‘reinforced’. They advise that courses in biomedical sciences should ‘critically engage’ with how the field has ‘contributed to and benefited from social injustice’ and how influential scientists have ‘benefited from and perpetuated misogyny, racism, homophobia, ableism and other prejudices’.

Biomedical sciences should ‘critically engage’ with how the field has ‘contributed to and benefited from social injustice’

This advice has garnered particular attention because of their mention of STEM courses, for example The Spectator branded the idea of decolonising Mathematics ‘sinister’. The point raised in the QAA’s report is that some Mathematicians have links to the slave trade, racism, and Nazism, and some statisticians were supporters of Eugenics. The QAA advises that students should be aware of such ‘problematic issues’ in the development of the subject that they are being taught.

In response to some of the criticism that they have received, the QAA clarified that they are ‘not a watchdog’, as the Daily Mail called them. Additionally, they clarified that they do not ‘tell’ Universities what to include in their courses, but rather the Subject Benchmark Statements collate the ideas put forward by academic practitioners regarding new ideas they may want to be considered within the curriculum

Redbrick spoke with Kinjell Singh, a second year law student and committee member of the University of Birmingham Amnesty International society. Kinjell said that in her view ‘It is important to strip back our syllabus in appreciation of how colonialism has affected how it is presented today. Our Law degree contains a decolonising module but not every degree has been structured with the importance of decolonial critical thinking. Decolonialism applies to all degrees.’

Redbrick reached out to the University of Birmingham, but they did not comment.

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