Concern is rising over whether ‘white’ history being taught in British universities is psychologically damaging to non-white students.
The UK government has announced that universities have until 2020 to increase their minority student population by five times the current amount. But the RT points out that the majority of higher education is based on predominantly European history and thus non-white undergraduates can be at a disadvantage. This could be caused by a feeling that these students’ heritage and histories aren’t being represented and they can’t relate to what they are being taught.
“When we look at the incredibly Eurocentric curriculum, where people don’t see themselves in what they’re studying, and can’t relate to it, and feel that their European counterparts hit the ground running, they can’t see themselves advancing in the subjects,” says Malia Bouattia. head of the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS).
Censorship among British universities is one reason why non-white students might feel they are unable to relate to subjects. Over 90 percent of universities in England censor expression and free speech, according to University Free Speech Rankings conducted by Spiked Online.
A new age in free speech and representation on campuses might be underway, according to Lukas Mikelionis writing for Heatstreet. Many groups of students have begun to come together to fight back against what they consider unfair censorship and a lack of representation in the curriculum.
Bouattia, who is the first black Islamic woman to lead the NUS, has generated controversy over some of her previous statements. She has called the University of Birmingham, which she attends, a “zionist outpost,” which caused an outcry from the Jewish population and many labeled her as antisemitic for the remarks.
Bouattia said, “When we think about the context in which we’re in, where there’s demonisation of being politically active, you’ve got the Prevent agenda, which is hunting down students that choose to be politicised, particularly those who are racialised.”
As James Tapsfeild writes for the Daily Mail, Bouattia has been involved in a number of other controversial campaigns such as the idea of abolishing prisons and opposing a resolution condemning ISIS because she believed the wording promoted Islamophobia.
Bouattia believes that prisons are both sexist and racist. The motion to abolish prisons pointed to the fact that prisons have a disproportionately high number of black inmates. The motion passed by the NUS and has since become the subject of controversy of its own.
Wes Streeting, a former NUS leader, has stated that the NUS was lost. Bouattia’s previous statements and sentiments may make it difficult for some to seriously consider the implications of a Eurocentric curriculum in British universities and not take notice of problems that might exist. Some universities are even questioning whether to stop dealing with the NUS altogether.
Bouattia has said that the claims that she is antisemitic are wrong, notes Blake Neff for the Daily Caller. Bouattia has said that her statements have been misinterpreted. Her claim to misinterpretation also caused an outcry from the Union of Jewish Students, who said she was disregarding NUS rules.
“While senior academic ranks may still be insufficiently diverse, the representation of minority perspectives in UK higher education should be improving,” Says Emran Mian, director of the Social Market think tank.