Recently the Director of SOAS University , Baroness Valerie Amos, said she is “looking at how to decolonise knowledge and in particular decolonise our literature and pedagogy” to ensure better representation for all students. I caught up with Angelica, a BA International Relations and Politics third-year undergraduate who studies at SOAS, to discuss her thoughts on what this all means for her.
Chijioke: What does it mean to you that Baroness Amos is attempting to decolonise the SOAS curriculum?
Angelica: “I welcome this decision from Baroness Amos. For me, decolonising the curriculum means including more representation of knowledge produced outside of Europe/the ‘West’ and a greater awareness of the historical contexts in which scholarly knowledge has been produced. I think there is a strong argument for a diverse curriculum improving academic standards, and credit for this must be given to the incredible students and university workers who have campaigned as part of a broader movement to ‘decolonise the university’ – many of whom are BME”
Chijioke: Do you think the onus should be placed on the Universities to seek to decolonise their curriculum or the students to campaign for this change?
Angelica: “I think we need a broader conversation on what the University is for. How are universities structured and funded? Higher education has been increasingly ‘marketised’ over the last couple of decades which means that whilst more people are going to University, schools like SOAS operate more like businesses – increasing profits, raising fees, and acquiring more property.”
It’s clear what side of this argument Angelica is on and her answers reflect that the responsibility of deconolising the curriculum shouldn’t be attributed to any one group, but instead, the truth seekers who aren’t afraid to go against the status quo. Angelica interestingly touched on the marketisation of Universities, and as a recent graduate who is in £27k of student fees debt, I can tell you for free that students don’t need reviews of our current system, but instead, tangible solutions to combat the disproportionate negative effects higher University costs have on working class and BME people.
As of 2018 SOAS ranks a remarkable 4th worldwide for the subject ‘Development Studies’. Not to take away from that achievement, but it makes sense considering the University was created 102 years ago to educate British imperialists to help facilitate the simultaneous development of Britain by underdeveloping it’s African and Asian colonies. In 1916 that was SOAS’ goal, but now SOAS should serve a new goal of pioneering educational development by loosening the stagnating grasp that a Eurocentric curriculum has on learning.
Students are making their voice’s heard, and it helps when a person in a high institutional position shares their same sentiment. Let’s just hope that words can be backed up by action because if knowledge is truly representative then student’s from all over the world will benefit from SOAS motto.
Chijioke Anosike TWN Editor