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Defining decolonisation

You may have heard of student-driven campaigns such as #RhodesMustFall or 'Why Is My Curriculum So White?' These campaigns aim to draw attention to the Eurocentrism of university curricula, which frequently reinforce a white, Western worldview whilst devaluing alternative voices and perpetrating stereotypes. This is all part of a movement known as 'decolonising the curriculum'.

Removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes (sculptor: Marion Walgate) from the campus of the University of Cape Town, 9 April 2015

There is no easy simple definition of what decolonising the curriculum means. The concept will vary in meaning and import depending on perspective, culture and geography. Here are a few definitions:

  • Decolonising universities is not about completely eliminating white men from the curriculum. It's about challenging longstanding biases and omissions that limit how we understand politics and interrogate its assumptions and broaden our intellectual vision to include a wider range of perspectives. While decolonising the curriculum can mean different things, it includes a fundamental reconsideration of who is teaching, what the subject matter is and how it's being taught. (Guardian, 2019)


  • Decolonisation of the curriculum is a profound project that is concerned with addressing the devastation and ongoing violence that European empires have perpetuated against people, mostly but not exclusively in/from the global south... It is about highlighting ways in which all aspects of the imaginary western superior modes of thinking, being, doing and living are privileged over indigenous knowledge and histories, which are deemed to be primitive, irrelevant to modern life, and irrational. (Singh, 2018)


  • Decolonization is the process of undoing colonizing practices. Within the educational context, this means confronting and challenging the colonizing practices that have influenced education in the past, and which are still present today. In the past, schools have been used for colonial purposes of forced assimilation. Nowadays, colonialism is more subtle, and is often perpetuated through curriculum, power relations, and institutional structures. (Centre for Youth & Society UVic n.d.)