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BRITAIN’S universities are “a product of colonialism” and action is still needed to challenge “racist structures” in institutions, students have warned.
In a plan setting out their priorities for the future, the National Union of Students (NUS) says that some parts of higher education “have propagated systems that assure white privilege” and that the system must be “decolonised.”
Universities have recognised there is a need to dismantle these systems, the union said, but more needs to be done to create a “truly liberated education.”
The call comes at the same time as a number of campaigns, some focused on calling for individual universities to examine whether courses are too dominated by a small group of perspectives, typically white and male, and should include a broader range of voices and writers — sometimes known as “decolonising the curriculum.”
Others focus on wider issues, such as the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, which was calling for institutions in Oxford and South Africa to remove statues of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes.
The NUS’s manifesto says it will work to “break down the barriers to succeeding in education and society.”
In a section entitled “decolonising our education,” it says: “Our educational structures and institutions are a product of colonialism: some have directly profited from this, while others have propagated systems that assure white privilege.
“This is reflected in the racist barriers and structures students face, with the attainment gap the most striking symptom of race inequity.
“Thanks to NUS campaigning, the sector recognises it has a responsibility to dismantle these systems.
“However, there remains the need for a vision of a truly liberated education, one that can thrive free from isolated attachment to Western narratives.
“NUS will support activists working across the UK, to understand, identify and actively challenge the racist structures in our colleges and universities.”
A number of institutions have been taking action to review curriculums and practices.
A spokeswoman from vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK said: “Our work suggests several universities are reviewing their curriculums as well as conducting liberation or decolonisation activities in co-ordination with students’ unions and individuals.”
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