Universities told to 'go woke' as degrees watchdog calls for courses to be 'decolonised'

15 November 2022, 22:04

Universities are being told to ‘decolonise’ courses
Universities are being told to ‘decolonise’ courses. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The degrees watchdog has ordered universities to 'decolonise' courses and teach about the impacts of 'white supremacy'.

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The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which checks on course standards, has updated its recommendations to include critical race theory, according to Mail Plus.

It suggests courses – including sciences and maths – teach about colonialism and "white supremacy", with many tutors expected to take the advice on board.

One example from the QAA for computing courses is addressing how "hierarchies of colonial value" are "reinforced" in the field.

In Geography, it is suggested that "racism, classism, ableism, homophobia and patriarchy" are acknowledged.

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Young activists protesting in London
Young activists protesting in London. Picture: Alamy

The advice comes as part of 25 "subject benchmarks", which describe what students should study and the standards they should meet.

Language courses are told to encourage students to reflect on "historical and contemporary forms of injustice and inequality related to imperialism, colonialism, class or gender divisions".

Meanwhile, it is recommended that Economics students are reminded that it remains "predominantly a white, male and Western field".

The QAA describes itself as "an independent charity working to benefit students and higher education, and one of the world’s experts in quality assurance".

It says that it is "trusted by higher education providers and regulatory bodies to maintain and enhance quality and standards".

The Office for Students (OfS) recommended the QAA to be the "designated quality body for higher education in England" in 2018 due to it being "highly capable [and] trustworthy".

The QAA took on the role, and continues to provide the OfS with advice about quality, despite having no powers itself.

Protesters hold Rhodes Must Fall placards during a demonstration.
Protesters hold Rhodes Must Fall placards during a demonstration. Picture: Alamy

A spokesman for the QAA told the site: "Subject benchmark statements do not mandate set approaches to teaching, learning or assessment.

"They are created by the subject communities for the subject communities, to be used as a tool for reflection when designing new courses or updating existing courses.

"It’s up to the individual academics and their departments whether or how closely they follow this guidance.

"The subject benchmark statement activity sits within QAA’s role as a membership organisation and is separate from our role as designated quality body."

Chief executive of the OfS Susan Lapworth said: "The OfS sets requirements for the quality of universities’ courses in England and decides if those requirements are met.

"All decisions about the quality of higher education courses are made by the OfS and not the QAA.

"The OfS does not expect universities to follow the QAA’s benchmark statements and we do not endorse or support the content of those documents.

"Should a university regulated by the OfS choose to use these documents it must ensure that it continues to meet the OfS’s requirements for course quality, freedom of speech and academic freedom.

"Where we have concerns that these requirements are not being met, we can and will intervene."