Back to news

Why is My Curriculum White?

By Mariya Hussain

Wednesday 11 March 2015 Student Journalists

Universities love to highlight their inclusivity and diversity, be it in the student body or the range courses taught. What we find however is that the content of those courses, the things we are being taught are not inclusive or diverse, reports NUS Journalist Mariya Hussain.

The education we receive at many universities is one that has been largely shaped by colonialism. It is one that places white, Eurocentric writers and thinkers above others without much concern.

This leads to a blindness to other perspectives, and a complete dismissal of the large amounts of thought provoking work produced throughout history by non-white thinkers and scholars.

Take a look over your own reading list, how many of the sources on it are non-white? I know that my own is not a wholly pleasant sight.

In History classes the colonisation of India is taught through the lens of the business workings of the British, and the lives of the colonised is rarely mentioned; English Literature focuses on pre 1800 white writing; Philosophy and Religion are drowned by white, largely male thinkers and a Eurocentric perspective.

The arts and humanities are the subjects that have the most work to do. They have the biggest opportunity to teach students a diverse range of interesting sources, and they do a great harm to our education by perpetuating the assumed authority of white euro centricity.

However, even in other departments there are opportunities to learn of non-white scholars in the field, opportunities that are too often not even considered.

BME students find themselves unrepresented, their histories and cultures completely ignored in the academic field because for many years white writing and history has been given a higher standing, and universities continue to perpetuate this idea of certain sources holding academic privilege.

Many students become disillusioned with their courses, feeling that what they are learning has little relevance and is exclusionary. This is not how a student should feel about their education, especially when paying such a high price for it.

The 'Why is My Curriculum White' campaign founded at UCL is a response to the lack of diversity found on our reading lists and our course content. The campaign aims to challenge this and highlight the lack of diversity in our education. You can learn more about experiences of a white curriculum in this video produced at UCL.

Some may say that British institutions should have a British focus, that to be have white Eurocentric curriculums is a given. But we must think about what we want our education and our institutions to be. If universities are claiming to be inclusive and diverse then their curriculums should reflect this.

If they want to prepare their students for the globalised and diverse world around them and offer interesting, valuable courses that challenge students’ thinking and teach them something new, then the curriculums need to change. However, institutions should not fall into the trap of introducing diversity in a tokenistic way.

There are some courses out there that are diverse and inclusive in their content, but they are few and far between and often are only delivered to a small section of the student population. What we see in these courses needs to be seen in all. The entire culture of our education needs to change, and neither I nor anyone else should have to ask the question, why is my curriculum white?


@mariyahussain1

My name is Mariya Hussain and I am currently in my second year of studying English at King’s College London. Education is something I am very passionate about. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of race, class, financial means or other causes that can limit a person’s access to education. As a result, I’m very happy to be writing on education!

I aspire to move further into journalism, and am excited to use and develop my skills whilst writing on the student perspective as an NUS Journalist. I’m also a photographer and enjoy using both words and images to share new and interesting stories.