Students’ views: Decolonising the curriculum


You’ve likely read the plethora of media reports; our academics have weighed in. But SOAS students are an opinionated bunch – so what’s their take on the decolonising agenda currently taking place?

Amelia Hopkins – LLM (Master of Laws)

Decolonising the curriculum - Politics and International Studies

“I completely agree with the notion of decolonising the curriculum, as it leads us not only to challenge the shared assumptions concerning ‘how the world is’, but investigate how it came to be, as well as the structures and relationships that shaped it, and continue to do so.”






Riccardo Labianco – PhD candidate in International Law 

“Honestly, I have always been fascinated by Kant’s work on the perpetual peace but I recognise that some passages of that work divide the world between civilised and uncivilised peoples. Among other things, decolonising the curriculum means filtering great and traditional pieces of the European thought, highlighting the good and original ideas, and putting away odious and outdated concepts.”





Sarah Virgi – MA Islamic Societies and Cultures with Intensive Arabic

“Unlike other disciplines, Philosophy claims to be a universal science. Although it has received particular emphasis and interest in the Western world, from where it has been institutionalised and received its name, it transcends the boundaries of the European tradition. African or Oriental philosophers and concepts deserve as much attention, value and study as Aristotelian logic or the Kantian transcendental system of thought.

“Besides, European philosophy is almost entirely in debt to Islamic thinkers; for instance, Aquinas would never have written his Summa Theologiae if it wasn’t for the commentaries and writings of the Andalus Ibn Rushd.

“Therefore, it is not a crime if philosophy students dedicate more time reading al-Farabi or Confucius; it will only enrich their understanding of fundamental concepts and ideas that travelled and grew from their international and intercultural “croisements”. More importantly, it is not a bad thing to reduce some space in the curriculum for Plato and Locke; it is instead a huge mistake and an incommensurable loss to this science to be reduced to them.”

Muhammad Gangat – BA Law

“Decolonising the SOAS curriculum is an amazing idea; we come to SOAS to learn about the vast wealth of knowledge and expertise passed on by the scholars of Oriental and African backgrounds, not just the traditional white scholars who have no doubt advanced their fields in an unquestionable manner.

SOAS is a specialist in Asian and African Studies and that should indeed be constituted with the philosophical ideas and theories of scholars from these regions too; it’s only right for us to learn about them.


Qurra Talain – BA History 

“I feel that the university needs to hire more lecturers from other backgrounds and regions. The curriculum should include more texts from the region itself, not from a western perspective. The historical orientalism should be revised so that we are exposed to readings that express other opinions.”




Zainab Ullah – BSc Economics

“I feel that decolonising is a very good initiative. On some programmes, the curriculum comes from a somewhat western perspective, therefore this campaign could go a long way in making the lectures and learning more balanced.”



Adil Ahmed – BSc Economics

“Decolonising is a different approach which attempts to pay attention to a more sinister part of western history. This is good because if we really want to question why things are the way they are, we need to think about the factors that got us there.”

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