Recent studies reveal a stark reality: case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and other regions constitute less than 10% of teaching materials used in top global business schools. At the Essex Business School (EBS), we have recognised the imperative need to critically examine our curriculum. It is now time for us all to understand the importance of decolonising the academic curriculum and the profound implications it holds for education and society at large.
The call for decolonisation that has gained more and more ground in the past decade or so is a response to long-standing biases and Eurocentric perspectives in academia that marginalise non-Western experiences, histories and knowledges. It is not merely about diversifying the faces we see in our materials or the authors we read; it is a deeper, more fundamental rethinking of the knowledge we teach and value. At EBS, this means confronting the reality that our students are not getting comprehensive exposure to diverse global business practices and theories that exist and are important, and might particularly matter to our diverse student body.
It is crucial to distinguish between decolonisation and diversity. While diversity focuses on the plurality of representation—ensuring various voices, cultures, and identities are present—decolonisation is ultimately a question of epistemology. It challenges the very foundations of what is considered valid and valuable knowledge. Decolonisation interrogates the dominance of Western perspectives and seeks to validate and integrate knowledge systems that have been historically ignored, side-lined or suppressed.
To address these challenges, the DEBUG Working Group formed in EBS in 2020-2021 as a collective of members from the EBS community dedicated to contributing to the decolonisation and diversification of business education. The group’s mission is rooted in the belief that transformative education should be emancipatory and foster meaningful encounters with people and ideas, mediated by educators. The DEBUG Working Group operates under three guiding principles:
This group is a central vehicle for the decolonising work at EBS, inviting everyone to broaden and reflect upon their perspectives and embrace the richness of multiple knowledges shaped by non-western experience and thought.
Decolonising the curriculum has profound implications. It is about dismantling the assumption that Western ways of knowing are the default or the standard. It is about acknowledging the rich tapestry of knowledge that exists in the world and recognising that students are impoverished educationally when they are exposed to only a narrow slice of it.
Decolonisation is not an endpoint, but an ongoing process of critical reflection and transformation. At EBS, we need to commit to leading the way in evolving business education for today's complex and pluralist world. Being an international business school increases the imperative to continually engage our community in this reflective process, where everyone has a role to play in shaping our curriculum.
Decolonising the EBS curriculum is about more than fairness or righting wrongs, historical or otherwise—it is about enriching our understanding of the world and educating thoughtful leaders equipped to build a just, sustainable world. EBS can and must play a role in this necessary evolution. The future of business education, and indeed of our global society, depends on it.
Senior Lecturer, management and marketing, Essex Business School, University of Essex
Dr Pasi Ahonen joined Essex Business School in 2014. He works in the management, marketing and organisation subject group.
His educational background is long and varied. He has studied in Canada, the USA, and Finland.
He is the associate director of research (management/marketing) at EBS.