reading lists
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Reading lists overrepresent white, male and Eurocentric viewpoints, study finds

White, male and Eurocentric viewpoints are overrepresented in university reading lists, academics from the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education have found. 

Their analysis of 290 authors of papers included in university reading lists found that the reading material was not representative of the student population.

7% of Social Science authors were black and minority ethnic (BAME). 39% of the student population are made up of BAME students. This is part of a wider trend of BAME being unrepresented in university settings.

A study by Runnymede Perspectives found ethnic minority students are less likely to receive offers from selective universities even if they have the same grades as their white counterparts.

Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University (BCU), stated: “Being taught Eurocentric knowledge, about what dead white men think… [is] damaging to you because it’s telling you you cannot think.”

Mr Andrews encouraged universities to “decolonise the curriculum” in order to close the large attainment gap between black students and white students identified by the Office for Students (OfS).

The UCL research also found that women were underrepresented in reading lists; while women make up 60% of Science students in the UK, 30% of reviewed authors on the reading list were female.

Dr Karen Schucan Bird, research co-author, said: “This study shows that higher education institutions and agencies need to develop coherent and consistent strategies which can move the whole sector towards programmes of study which are both more inclusive and more diverse.

“Universities also need to engage in discussions about what a ‘diverse/inclusive/decolonised’ reading list actually looks like, engaging with both staff and students to ensure clarity and commitment from all.”

The research also found that women were underrepresented in reading lists; while women make up 60% of Science students in the UK, 30% of reviewed authors on the reading list were female.

Changes are being put in place at UCL to combat the lack of diversity in their reading lists. These include the BME Attainment Project, “Liberating the Curriculum” working group and an “inclusive curriculum health check” which support staff in creating a more inclusive environment and curriculum to reduce the risk of alienating students.

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