DSU UG Officer criticises the University’s “sidelining” of decolonisation campaign


In an article published earlier this month, Nailah Haque, Durham SU Undergraduate Officer, criticised the University’s failure to prioritise the Decolonise Durham campaign, causing significant delays.

Nailah said that “widespread curriculum reform is urgent and necessary, and so it has been disappointing to see the project sidelined, whilst Durham People of Colour Association (DPOCA), many other students, and academic staff remain heavily invested in this work.”

The Undergraduate Officer continued that despite University acknowledgement of the importance of the campaign, there have been major “delays due to internal bureaucracy”.

Nailah claimed that the University agreed to hire interns to help with the project within faculties and departments. Following that, “vital time has been spent seeking out information on Durham’s hiring process, finding who in each department to contact and waiting for responses, which has meant crucial timescales have been pushed back repeatedly”.

“The labour invested into this work has been somewhat undermined by the University’s failure to prioritise this campaign”.

Last June, the Durham SU launched its campaign to Decolonise Durham, which included a seven page manifesto and the “Decolonise Durham Network” to “bring together students and staff to think critically about education and the university as a whole”. The network has since held online panels, while the University organised three workshops on “decolonising the curriculum”.

The campaign was first started by then outgoing Undergraduate Officer -Audini, who was succeeded by Nailah.

“The labour invested into this work has been somewhat undermined by the University’s failure to prioritise this campaign”.

Nailah Haque

Professor Alan Houston, Vice-Provost (Education), said: “We recognise and champion the importance of decolonising the curriculum – understanding and addressing the legacy of colonialism, and especially of racism, on what we teach and how we teach. It is an expression of our core values as a global place of learning.

“In autumn 2020 we launched a University-wide Decolonising the Curriculum project, involving the Education Division, all four faculties, the Durham Research Methods Centre (DRMC) and the Students’ Union, to explore decolonising the curriculum for each programme of study.

“During the 2020/21 academic year we have held a series of workshops, both University-wide and more focussed, exploring what decolonising the curriculum looks like across Durham University and in particular subject areas. These have included student and staff representatives, and been attended by over 200 members of our community in total.

 “We have committed funding to enable faculties and departments to pursue this work, which will see each faculty hire a student intern to support a faculty-wide team. In addition, departments will hire student interns to work with academic colleagues on specific projects. We are currently recruiting to both faculty and department intern positions and expect that the first interns will begin work during Easter Term.

“We are grateful to the Students’ Union, the Durham People of Colour Association and others for their support and look forward to continuing to work with them on this extremely important change agenda during this Term and beyond.”

Image: Durham Students’ Union

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