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From silence to ‘strategic advancement’: institutional responses to ‘decolonising’ in higher education in England





Amid the rising calls for a ‘decolonised curriculum’, scholars and activists have outlined what needs to be done to ‘decolonise the university’. Yet in practice, those involved in decolonising work often face considerable backlash and institutional resistance. Drawing on empirical research with students and staff across nine universities in England, this paper sets out to capture the contested terrain of ‘decolonising the university’. We draw on qualitative accounts, collected through in-depth interviews with 24 individuals who are engaged in individual and/or group-based decolonial efforts, at discipline/departmental/institutional level to achieve change in their universities. We conceptualise and explore institutional responses to ‘decolonising’ through three strategies: rejection, reluctant acceptance, and strategic advancement. Presenting a snapshot of decolonising work in England over the period 2014–2021, our findings raise questions about what needs to be done to counter institutional co-option, incorporation, and the dilution of the radical message of decolonising.

Acceptance Date Sep 1, 2021
Publication Date Dec 1, 2021
Journal Teaching in Higher Education
Print ISSN 1356-2517
Publisher Routledge
Keywords Decolonising work; Institutional responses; Strategic advancement of decolonising; Eurocentrism
Publisher URL