What we teach

What we teach

Welcome to the "What We Teach" section of our webpage on decolonising the curriculum at the University of Aberdeen. Here, we aim to provide an overview of approaches that support decolonising of the content of our courses and programmes to reflect a more inclusive and diverse curriculum.

At our institution, we recognise the importance of decolonising the curriculum and ensuring that the education we provide is representative of the diverse perspectives and experiences of all students. Our courses are designed to challenge and engage students, providing them with the tools they need to succeed in their chosen fields while also addressing the historical and ongoing impact of colonialism on various aspects of society.

We offer a diverse range of programmes, from undergraduate to postgraduate levels, in various disciplines, including arts and humanities, sciences, engineering, social sciences, and business. Our staff members are experts in their respective fields and have worked hard to incorporate a range of perspectives into the curriculum, including those that have been historically underrepresented.

We recognise that decolonising the curriculum is an ongoing process, and we are committed to continually reviewing and updating our courses to ensure that they are inclusive, representative and reflective of the diversity of our student body.

We recognise:

  • the importance of inclusive education in establishing equitable access for students from diverse social, cultural, educational, and economic backgrounds
  • the inequalities arising from the historic and ongoing impact of racism and colonialism in the present and we seek to address these inequalities
  • that we need to take account of how knowledge is constructed within higher education learning environments

In decolonsing the curriculum we need to recognise the intersectionalities across these three areas for racialised groups. From a decolonial perspective what does this mean?

  • What we teach plays a role in remedying the highly selective narrative of traditional academia which frames the West as the sole producers of universal knowledge
  • What we teach plays a role in integrating subjugated and local epistemologies to create more intellectually rigorous and complete education

Teaching content and curriculum development should take account of these contexts and should include consideration of:

  • Transparently integrating our values as an inclusive university into teaching
  • Use of imagery within teaching that reflects the world we live in and does not stereotype racialised groups
  • Discipline-specific knowledge and good practice in the different disciplines – creating connections within and across disciplines in the UK and beyond to develop approaches to teaching
  • Use of texts that value diverse voices, as central to the curriculum so that teaching reflects the world we live in (see ‘What we mean by Anti-Racist Curriculum’).

We acknowledge that the process of decolonisation is a collective journey, with some of us just beginning this work while others have been actively engaged in it for many years. This diversity of experiences means there is a wealth of knowledge to be shared within our university and across various disciplines and the broader educational sector.

Decolonising your reading list

The Library is actively working towards the goal and process of decolonising our collections through the assessment and analysis of collections data, removal of cultural and racial bias within our cataloguing records and investment in information resources that are inclusive of perspectives, values, and ideologies of racialised people and other underrepresented geographical and cultural paradigms.

Decolonising a reading list does not mean removing resources from your list. Instead, we aim to encourage you to make use of the tools, prompts and resources provided here to better discover what areas of your reading list can be expanded so as to better provide an understanding free of colonial influences.

The Library supports the University’s approach to decolonising the curriculum through the investment in information resources that promote radical thinking and challenge Eurocentric default positions in academia. This guide showcases some of the items we have invested in to diversify and decolonise our collections.


Decolonisation is not a one size fits all process and varies by department and subject area. Your knowledge and expertise of your discipline is critical to providing a well-balanced reading list and we recommend working with other academics in your discipline to share ideas.

As a starting point, complete the following questionnaire to help you examine your reading list quickly and begin thinking critically about the resources included.

Auditing Tool

Conducting a full reading list audit can provide you with a more data driven approach to examining your reading list.

In spring 2022, we ran 143 reading lists from four disciplines, used in the 2020/21 and 2021/22 academic years, through our auditing tool and found the following:

  • 94% of the authors were white
  • 87% of the authors were male
  • 48% of titles were published in Western Europe
  • 49% of titles were published in North America

To allow you to conduct your own audits in order to gain a visualisation of how diverse your existing reading list is, we have made the audit tool available for you here.

To use this tool, follow the step-by-step instructions. Additional support can be requested by emailing us.

Step-by-step instructions on using the audit tool

  1. Download the audit tool and locate the reading list in Leganto that you wish to audit.
  2. Using Leganto, export the list as a CVS file.
  3. Copy the title, resource type, and course code into the auditing tool.
  4. Identify the gender and ethnicity of the authors and add the information to the audit tool. There may be circumstances in which this information cannot be found; in these cases, simply select unknown.
  5. For works with multiple authors, use the “Total number of” columns for an accurate breakdown for each title.
  6. Similarly add the publisher information to the audit tool, including place of publication.
  7. Once you are happy with the completed spreadsheet, the results of the audit will be visible in the “data visualisation tab”.
  8. Engage with the results. Discuss what you have found with colleagues and examine how you might expand your recommended resources.

You can submit your completed audit and book a consultation by emailing library@abdn.ac.uk.

Resource List

The library is here to help you find the resources you need to add to the represented narratives of your reading list. Each discipline has their own Information Consultant who can provide support in finding diverse materials and resources for your reading list. You can find who your Information Consultant is by looking at the library contacts.

Top Tips:

  • Browse smaller, independent, or alternative publishers
  • Consider Open Access Resources
  • Look at other institutions; what work decolonisation work is being done in your field elsewhere
  • Think about alternative formats beyond books and articles, e.g., audio-visual resources

Consider looking in unfamiliar places when seeking a broader range of voices to include in your reading list. Remember decolonising your reading list is not about removing resources but instead adding them. Major multidisciplinary databases such as Web of Science and Scopus have built-in tools allowing you to analyse your search results, including the ability to create visualisations showing language, author affiliation and place of publication.

We have included a number of databases and open access resources in our Leganto decolonising reading list to support you.

We welcome recommendations from the University community on titles and collections that offer enriched perspectives, diverse voices and global approaches to the foundations and production of knowledge. The Library has a dedicated fund we use for purchasing materials supporting the decolonisation of the collection. You can submit your suggestions here.

Essential resources, including titles contributing towards the decolonisation of your reading list, will be purchased by the library, subject to availability and affordability. More information on this can be found on the reading list service website.

Decolonisation Reading Lists

To support you in your decolonisation journey, we have highlighted some resources and links that might be useful for you.

If you are doing work on decolonisation and have suggestions of resources that we can add to our lists, we would be happy for you to submit your recommendations to us via email.

For more inspiration, the diversifying our collections reading list is also available here.

Student Co-Creation

Student involvement is vital to the decolonisation process, and it is encouraged that work on this be undertaken with their participation. The decolonisation of reading lists provides a valuable opportunity to working with students to create co-curated reading lists.

Suggested Activities:

  • Introduce traditional key thinkers in the subject area whilst also highlighting forgotten narratives and excluded discussion areas
  • Organise a staff-student discussion area in the course area in your VLE; encourage your students to engage in conversation and analysis of the reading as term progresses
  • Ask your students to suggest content from their own research and experience
  • Considering including reading list reviews in your course; examine if these can be embedded into assessed curriculum of your courses
  • As the course closes, ask your students what new resources they discovered and for a final analysis on the reading list you have created together

Reading lists on Leganto can be edited and adjusted at any time throughout the academic year, and it is entirely possible to create a live reading list that you can update during the course to better reflect the students of your class and encourage engagement.

Best Practice

If you have been undertaking work in this area and wish to submit your reading list for consideration as an example of best practice, please feel free to contact us below with the course information. We would require the course name, course code and the year in which the reading list was in use.

Contact us with your Best practice consideration

Additional resources

Here are some resources that might be helpful for you in taking your next steps: