"Decolonising the curriculum": reporting back on Global Mental Health initiatives

Published: 21 November 2023

Our Global Mental Health teaching team has embarked on a project to decolonise its curriculum, with first steps including the auditing of courses and a workshop for students

University of Glasgow, acknowledging its historical connection to structural racism and the slave trade, has committed to addressing these issues proactively.

Photo of a small group of students using a University of Glasgow study area

The Global Mental Health (GMH) teaching team has embarked on a project to decolonise its curriculum. Effective decolonisation is considered to be a radical, bottom-up process disrupting institutional norms.

The initial phase involved members of the project team exploring the concept of decolonisation. This was followed by an audit of two courses using the University of Reading’s decolonising tool. Feedback from the audit identified three categories of development:

  1. small adaptations
  2. decolonisation development
  3. new content

The team then organised a workshop for on-campus students to present the project, share newly developed materials, and engage students in addressing areas requiring further consideration. The workshop encouraged students to adopt a decolonial stance and explore concepts like positionality and privilege. Current students and alumni supported the workshop, and attendees were invited to contribute to future learning resources, with the incentive of their work being recognised in their university transcript.

The workshop included twelve students, representing various nationalities and language backgrounds. A pre-session survey revealed varying levels of familiarity with decolonisation, with participants recognising its aim to rebalance power, reintegrate Indigenous ideologies, and break away from Western/Eurocentric influences.

The workshop incorporated listening activities, full-group discussions on unconscious bias, and small group discussions focused on finding solutions to case studies. Outcome notes from these case studies were embedded in the workshop sections, contributing to the ongoing effort to decolonise the GMH curriculum and foster inclusivity and diversity within the university.

Post-session feedback indicated that students found the workshop extremely valuable, with participants expressing new or deeper understandings of decolonisation and appreciation for insights into different viewpoints. Themes included the workshop as a vessel for amplifying voices and the suggestion for decolonisation to be more integral to live sessions.

Ailsa Foley

Dimitar Karadzhov

Julie Langan Martin 
Programme Lead/Clinical Senior Lecturer

Laura Sharp
Senior Lecturer 

Mia Wilson 

In 2022 University of Glasgow launched its decolonising the curriculum community of practice, for colleagues who share an interest in identifying colonial injustice in institutional structures and the history of subject disciplines. Any member of staff, from any job family, and all students are welcome to join and contribute to this important work.

First published: 21 November 2023

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