The Decolonising DMU project has seen impact across three main areas:
- Awareness raising
- Changes to practice
- The development and dissemination of decolonising and anti-racist principles in a range of settings
A total of 533 staff attended 36 DMU-wide events pre- and post-lockdown, based upon awareness-raising around decolonising. The project has also seen direct engagement via the Community of Practice and Unapologetically BAME groups (in partnership with BARC and with 183 students attending 11 events), and through two events in partnership with NUS-SOS and DMU ESD (70 attendees).
Within Library and Learning services, advocacy for diversity in resources has lead to the creation of specific tools and guidance on decolonising reading lists and a regular programme of talks has been devised to encourage greater debate around diversity, race and reading.
For staff, the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice now includes a strand of work devoted to decolonising and a dedicated role, Decolonising Champion, has been implemented to provide support for staff who seek to develop their own practice.
Finally, the project has also contributed to the creation of safe spaces in which to discuss race and racism, and share lived experience, for both staff and students.
Changes to practices
In Library and Learning services, a survey of the student experience flagged up different experiences and uses of the library by different groups, which has resulted in increased representation and visibility of people of colour within the staff profile. This was aided by the review and amendment of recruitment processes to ensure a broader field of applicants for new posts and a more equitable mode of interviewing. Collection policies, validation and reading list guidelines also now include acknowledgement of the need for cultural awareness and diversity in content.
For international students, the clarity and readability of letters and emails sent to students was reviewed, resulting in more effective support. An ongoing project is also working to remove disability evidence barriers from as many disability support services as possible. Some of our business modules have also been working on the use of assessment checklists to overcome common mistakes before assessment submission and improve guidance on academic skills development. There is strong endorsement from tutors who used these checklists who testify they have played a critical role in demystifying assessments consequently creating a more inclusive assessment experience for their students.
Additional support is now in place during the process of assessment for Specific Learning Differences and Disabled Students Allowance applications, in order to reduce the numbers of students who drop out of this process and therefore fail to obtain all of the support to which they are entitled. This work is the result of our research into the impact of these processes on BAME students.
A review of academic quality documentation has allowed for recommendations to be made about terminology, in relation to monitoring of paperwork, and also guidance for collaborative partners and placement feedback. Working with the Faculty Head of Research Students in BAL, a dedicated working group has been constituted to review PGR admissions and transitions. And finally, an Expert and Advisory Group has drafted a Learning and Teaching Toolkit for use across the university in 2021/22.
The development and dissemination of decolonising and anti-racist principles in a range of settings
A directorate model for embedding anti-racist principles has been developed within Societal Impact and Engagement (SIE). This best practice will be shared across other directorates. The Library collections continue to be diversified, including through the purchase of specific, curated, multi-disciplinary EDI collections of e-books, relevant databases (i.e. Kanopy, Black Freedom Struggles in the 20th Century, and e-journal collections like Springer’s Black Lives Matter).
A decolonising research network has been developed, with a first meeting planned for November 2021, in order to discuss decolonising theory and methodology, involving staff from 10 research institutes and centres. Meanwhile, research work conducted throughout the Freedom to Achieve and Phase 1 of the DDMU projects has allowed the team to begin to explore Decolonising DMU means to students and staff.
Additionally, members of the team have been involved in 27 national and international presentations, including through partnerships with NUS and Students Organising for Sustainability. Peer-reviewed publications include: Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching; and Teaching in Higher Education. The team have also produced: a co-creation guide and schedule; student voice report; a product evaluation report for Freedom to Achieve; and, a self-audit tool for decolonising research.