Liberate your degree

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Rather inevitably, perhaps, since my post on Wednesday following my meeting at the NUS, I've been reading around the notion of a "liberated and sustainable curriculum".  Here's something of what NUS has to say about it:

Universities rely on rigid curricula and assessment methods that privilege some groups while systematically shutting out those most marginalised from succeeding in education: women, working class, disabled, LGBT+, Black students and those with caring responsibilities.

In 2013, 16 per cent more white British students graduated with a first or 2:1 degree than UK domiciled Black students (ECU, 2014). Research conducted by NUS (Race for Equality, 2011) and the HEA (2012) on the attainment gap and retention of Black students highlights the need for representative curricula and diversifying assessment practices.

Black students are over-represented in HE institutions in relation to the general population, yet vastly under-represented in the curricula and within academic ranks.

For the past few years NUS has made huge and significant progress in bringing those issues to the forefront of the national agenda in education and working with the government and sector bodies on strategic approaches to be disseminated. Only in the last year, NUS has made significant progress with the Office For Fair Access and HEFCE on prioritising solutions to attainment gaps at national level and embedding measures in access agreements as well as with BIS on addressing the gaps at postgraduate level.

Now it’s time for us to co-ordinate the empowerment of students’ unions to push for change and challenge issues on the ground through the students who are affected, and do this collectively. It’s time for our institutions to listen to their students.

The NUS Liberate My Degree campaign has begun as a collaboration between the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and the HE Zone, which aims to empower student reps from academic and liberation groups with the tools to transform and decolonise education so that it is more representative of the diverse student body, as well as amplifying local campaigns and initiatives to liberate education to a national level.

This hub is a repository of resources for students’ unions to use for bringing their students, course reps and liberation groups together to discuss specific approaches to campaigning to dismantle the Eurocentric education system and develop institutional strategies that suit them. 

To begin with we will be exploring the following:

  • briefings on access for different liberation groups
  • approaches to tackling the Black attainment gap
  • students and staff co-designing curricula
  • student-led alternative education spaces
  • student involvement in developing alternative assessments which test a wide range of skills (coming soon)

The hub is in continual development and will expand through future collaborations with the other NUS Liberation campaigns.  We are also collecting case studies of local campaigns to showcase on the hub so do get in touch with details about your campaign!

For workshops and presentations at your union please contact the officers - and also get in touch to let us know what you’d find useful as a resource!


Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students’ Officer
Sorana Vieru, NUS Vice President (Higher Education)


I'm not sure I'm much the wiser after all this, although I should say that I found the contrast between the breadth of the opening paragraph, and the narrowness of what followed, quite instructive.  There is, of course, a hierarchy of disadvantage, and I searched in vain for the identity of the NUS Male Working Class Students Officer – whoever she is.

NB, Ms Bouattia is now the NUS President elect.  Expect more on all this.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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