At its meeting on 4 November 2020, Senate agreed that all departments must develop an action plan to decolonise their curriculum. I am aware that some departments already have ongoing action plans and there is no suggestion that these need to be reformulated if they already meet the requirements from Senate. Whilst plans do not have to be submitted until June 2021, I am keen to encourage early actions and early thinking about this important work.

The following are the agreed principles for decolonising the curriculum at Essex:

  1. The curriculum should support every student from every background to achieve success and so must be inclusive.
  2. The curriculum should be defined by academics as experts in their field. In defining the curriculum, there should be recognition that a global history of domination has impacted on, and limited, what is considered knowledge and whose knowledge is recognised. This in turn has historically affected what and how we teach. In recognising these effects, we seek to define a more inclusive curriculum.   
  3. A review of the curriculum should involve students, including those from marginalised groups.
  4. A review of the curriculum should include:
  •  all modules at all levels
  • consideration of which bodies of knowledge are considered to be core/compulsory and which optional
  • consideration of the content of what is taught, including examples used and recommended reading.
  • consideration of how the curriculum is taught, including language and images used.
  • consideration of how students experience, and thus engage with, the curriculum differently on the basis of their race and ethnicity, and how they can provide feedback on their experience.
  • consideration of the methods of assessment used: do some types of assessment privilege some groups over others?

To support this I have established a Decolonising the Curriculum Fund for which applications are now open.

This dedicated fund offers up to £500 to departments and schools to support local actions to decolonise the curriculum. I am happy to consider a range of actions that are relevant to the subjects taught in your department and to your current circumstances. Noting that each department will be at a different stage in its thinking, funding can be used to test ideas, develop the departmental action plan, as well as for actions that deliver immediate impact. It will be an essential criterion that all funded actions are sustainable or will result in sustainable impact.

We are supporting this important work in a number of ways and I would encourage all Heads of Department to ensure that they and relevant colleagues are engaged.  A series of resources to support departments to decolonise their curricula are now available on our Tackling Racism Webpages and are continuing to be developed by Organisational Development.  Education Committee considered two papers on this topic: a dedicated paper on Decolonising the Curriculum with recommendations that have been approved by Senate and a separate paper on the EDI analysis of student performance in Capstone project modules by ethnicity.  Hannah Gibson’s presentation to the Senior Staff Conference is also available.

In addition, a seminar series is being organised by Dr Colin Reilly, Dr Hannah Gibson and a number of students at the University of Essex. This is part of a larger collaborative project with Professor Rajendra Chetty of the University of the Western Cape and is funded by GCRF@Essex. I will be leading a dedicated session through the Directors of Education Network later this term, and with those leading on the decolonisation work in departments in the spring term.

Only one application can be submitted per department, and this should be coordinated through the Head of Department.  A light touch application form with guidance notes on how to apply, the criteria for selection of projects, the decision-making process, terms and conditions, and where to direct any queries is now available. Download the application form (.doc).

Please note that any allocated funding must be used by Friday 30 July 2021. Funding is expected to be available for use from Monday 4 January 2021, subject to receipt of signed terms and conditions.

The deadline for applications is Monday 7 December at 5pm.  Decisions on which applications will be funded will be communicated during the week of 14 December.

I look forward to receiving your application.