From silence to ‘strategic advancement’: institutional responses to ‘decolonising’ in higher education in England

Shain, Farzana; Yildiz, Umit; Poku, Veronica and Gokay, Bulent. 2021. From silence to ‘strategic advancement’: institutional responses to ‘decolonising’ in higher education in England. Teaching in Higher Education, 26(7-8), pp. 920-936. ISSN 1356-2517 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Amid the rising calls for a ‘decolonised curriculum’, scholars and activists have outlined what needs to be done to ‘decolonise the university’. Yet in practice, those involved in decolonising work often face considerable backlash and institutional resistance. Drawing on empirical research with students and staff across nine universities in England, this paper sets out to capture the contested terrain of ‘decolonising the university’. We draw on qualitative accounts, collected through in-depth interviews with 24 individuals who are engaged in individual and/or group-based decolonial efforts, at discipline/departmental/institutional level to achieve change in their universities. We conceptualise and explore institutional responses to ‘decolonising’ through three strategies: rejection, reluctant acceptance, and strategic advancement. Presenting a snapshot of decolonising work in England over the period 2014-2021, our findings raise questions about what needs to be done to counter institutional cooption, incorporation, and the dilution of the radical message of decolonising.

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“This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Teaching in Higher Education. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.”


Decolonising work, institutional responses, strategic advancement of decolonising, Eurocentrism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies > Centre for Identities and Social Justice


1 September 2021Accepted
13 September 2021Published Online

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Date Deposited:

03 Sep 2021 08:45

Last Modified:

13 Mar 2023 02:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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