Creating an anti-racist university experience

Project Lead: Ms Jill Childs


About us

Our ambitious and challenging aim has been to tackle disparity at Oxford Brookes University and to create a new model that supports achievement for students from diverse backgrounds. That model is called ‘Creating a place to inhabit’ and its goal is to change our curriculum to make it more inclusive, using indigenous voices (Mbembe, 2016).

Our work focuses on developing solutions to overcome degree outcome gaps. Our journey as a Higher Education provider to create a decolonised curriculum within an emerging institutional inclusivity agenda has taken place within this context (Oxford Brookes University Strategy, 2020).

On this journey, we have sought to cultivate an environment that creates a sense of belonging or ‘place to inhabit’ (Mbembe, 2016), for all staff and students, in the expectation that this will enable success of students from historically disadvantaged groups. In developing this approach, we have drawn heavily on indigenous models developed by Burundian colleagues (Childs et al., 2021).

Our work began well before the refocus recently on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the UK and many countries across the world which has brought the topic of racism and inequalities in education for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students back into public discourse.

Related courses


Jill Childs

Ms Jill Childs

Principal Lecturer for Social Work

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Name Role Email
Rita Baptista Lecturer in Social Work
Eleanor Bartlett Lecturer in Social Work
Mrs Jody Bell Senior Lecturer in Social Work
Mr Robert Bennie Senior Lecturer in Social Work
Ms Liz Clarke Senior Lecturer in Social Work
Mr Jon Hyslop Senior Lecturer in Social Work
Professor Louise Taylor Professor of Education and Student Experience

Our journey to now

The work in our University began well before the BLM protests in the summer of 2020.

Our work to decolonise the curriculum started in silos of interest and in 2017, we developed a strategy that became an action plan. Now we are at a point where, as a programme team, we have a well-embedded action plan and we are beginning to look at evidencing impact. Our strategy has covered curriculum, staffing, research and, most importantly, our mind sets, all with an aim of overcoming outcome gaps.

We want to acknowledge all the good work that has begun in the sector, but we need to remain critical of ourselves and others and realise there is a long way still to go and how we will maintain this work once it doesn't become the latest thing. We realise our work is only a small aspect of that good sector work.

We have drawn heavily on the idea of Ubuntu ‘I am because we are’. Ubuntu speaks to the value of collectivism and it has been through working together and collaboration that we have achieved our outcomes.

Lady resting, looking back at her journey

Our mission

hands of different skin colors moving towards each other

We subscribe to the broad definition of social work adopted by the International Federation of Social Workers and echoed by the British Association of Social Workers. This emphasises the centrality of social justice, human rights, and dignity and respect for all people.

Our mission is to build capacity within communities through education, enterprise, research and innovation. This involves educating people for a social work career in diverse and constantly changing social contexts. We aim to recruit and support students from a wide range of backgrounds, to create a vibrant, inclusive and supportive community. This means ensuring that the voice of service users is heard in every aspect of our courses, and applying a broad range of theory that challenges systematic inequalities at individual and social levels.

Underpinning theory and overall work

Working towards a decolonised curriculum in social work at Oxford Brookes University, UK, with the help of Hope Africa University, Burundi:

Over the last four years, students and staff engaged in social work education at Oxford Brookes University have been engaged in a joint initiative to decolonise the social work curriculum and promote a genuinely inclusive learning community.

Black Lives Matter poster

Global Majority Collective (GMC)

GMC logo

Global Majority Collective (GMC) is a group of Social Work students from Oxford Brookes University (OBU) from diverse backgrounds including Africans, Asians and Caribbean.

The aim of GMC is to collectively decolonise the Social Work curriculum and create one that is equal, diverse and inclusive. This will be achieved by working collaboratively with the University by seeing in effect current and relevant curriculum being taught in class. Moreover, we aim to see OBU having a team that is diverse within support services, student admissions, teaching team and academic advisors. This will generally contribute to a university experience that embraces a global thinking.

Having a GMC platform means that its members have a safe space to express themselves, point out what is working and what needs fixing. We are a solution focused group. Working collectively will contribute to the future we need to see as well as create a gateway for students who will come after us.