De Montfort University’s Decolonising DMU (DDMU) team harnesses the diversity, expertise and lived experiences of the whole of the university community in collaborative partnership to work towards building an anti-racist university. Responding to the historical and ongoing effects of racism and structural inequalities in higher education, the team has supported and empowered the university community to implement anti-racist practices and procedures that have impacted learning and teaching and broader institutional working practices, both at DMU and across the sector.
The team is led by Kaushika Patel and has evolved from a Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Catalyst-funded project focusing on the curriculum and the closing of the ethnicity awarding gap, to a whole institution approach. This holistic approach takes into consideration structures, cultures and practices of the university to address unequal outcomes and experiences for staff and students. In order to work effectively to achieve the aims of the project, partnerships with and between students, academics and professional services staff are central to the operation of the team.
Decolonising DMU is the first project of its kind in the sector. The individual involvement and empowerment of staff and students across the institution has enabled co-creation within a collaborative learning community. This has led to, for example:
- the development of a toolkit and online resources designed to help colleagues work towards an anti-racist institution
- numerous events involving students that have centred the student voice and ensured student involvement and feedback in the development and delivery of the DDMU strategy
- workshops involving 100 professional services staff giving clear links between DDMU and the day-to-day working lives of those staff and the impact on the student experience.
DDMU has successfully influenced the strategic direction of the university and the work is anchored inside the governance of the institution, giving capacity for significant institutional change. However, the team has extended its reach and impact beyond the university, with invited speaker opportunities at numerous conferences, journal articles, blogs and providing strategic advice to other HEIs. This project has achieved transformation and cross-institutional, as well as cross-sector, impact.