Diversifying the Curriculum

On 16 May 2019, Dr Sanja Bogojević and the Law Faculty hosted a workshop titled ‘Diversifying the Curriculum’. The workshop was organised as part of the Race Equality Coordinator’s work to ‘promote awareness of diversity and race equality issues within the faculty’, which includes steps to diversify the curriculum.

In the first of three session, Dr Antara Haldar (Peterhouse/University of Cambridge) and Dr Steven Vaughan (UCL) unpacked the multifaceted notion of ‘diversifying the curriculum’, its relationship with measures to ‘decolonise the curriculum’, and laid out the significance of both initiatives. Any attempt to diversify knowledge channels starts by re-examining what and who we teach - whether some voices and ideas are included, promoted and valorised over others, and why that is. These are essential questions any educational institution must address continuously.  

In the second session, speakers were invited to share their experiences of diversifying the curriculum elsewhere. Dr Manjeet Ramgotra (SOAS) talked about the Decolonising SOAS Working Group and its toolkit to decolonise curricula, as well as how, initially, students prompted her to reconceptualise her teaching to include more women and people of colour. Dr Prince Saprai (UCL) discussed his work as the Vice Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at UCL Faculty of Laws, and how running an ‘inclusive curriculum health check’ helped spur an intra-institutional debate on knowledge diversification. Professor Helen Scott (LMH/Oxford Law Faculty) considered policy reforms initiated at the University of Cape Town following the ‘Rhodes must fall’ and ‘Fees must fall’ movements. These presentations showed how steps to diversify the curriculum can originate at various institutional levels, and the significance of consulting different stakeholders in creating and fostering an inclusive learning environment.  

In the final session, Oxford Faculty members were invited to discuss their perspectives on the Law Faculty’s work toward diversifying the curriculum. Prof Jonathan Herring (Exeter/Oxford Law Faculty) outlined the background to his current project – an edited series of textbooks on how to diversify the curriculum in core law subjects. Prof Mindy Chen-Wishart (Merton/Oxford Law Faculty) argued that in order to create an inclusive and diverse learning environment, work is needed on multiple fronts, including reflecting on, and discussing at faculty workshops which courses we offer (and which we do not), pedagogy, assessments, recruitment, mechanisms for appointing visiting scholars, and student experience. Dr Liora Lazarus (St Anne’s College/Oxford Law Faculty), who was the Law Faculty’s first Race Equality Coordinator, voiced some of the frustrations experienced in seeking quick institutional changes, including taking fast steps in diversifying the curriculum, and finally Margaret Watson (Oxford Law Library) explained, from a librarian’s point of view, the vital role that libraries, and the Oxford law library in particular, play in diversification.

All in all, the workshop pointed to various challenges, as well as opportunities, in rethinking the curriculum and the many ways through which such attempts can be approached. The overwhelming sentiment was upbeat, with a consensus that respectful diversification and inclusiveness on reading lists and beyond must be central aims of any first-rate research and education institution.

The workshop was generously funded by the Social Sciences Division.