Mini-Series: Curriculum as a site for social justice and anti-discrimination

People standing at a protest
Image Credit: Gayatri Malhotra Unsplash. Remix by Joe Arton

In this post, Professor Rowena Arshad who currently convenes the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science (CAHSS) Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, Professor James Smith Vice Principal International and Professor of African and Development Studies, and Joséphine Foucher, Teaching Matters co-editor, introduce the mini-series “Curriculum as a Site for Social Justice and Anti-Discrimination”.

While many (including staff and students within The University of Edinburgh) take to the streets to protest on a range of social justice issues (from environmental issues to Black Lives Matter),  the action that many academic staff often take is in  the way they know best – through teaching, research and knowledge exchange.  However, placing issues on the agenda to a diverse student cohort is not straightforward. It often requires the tutor to think differently, creatively and indeed bravely. So we wanted to acknowledge and celebrate the work that individual colleagues are developing in the University and this mini-blog series was conceived.

For the next twelve weeks, we will be introducing a new blog each week, which helps us reflect on learning and teaching as spaces for disruption, transformation and boundary-pushing.  The blogs are a combination of personal accounts of practice where staff have used learning spaces to pose conundrums and interrogated issues of diversity, equality and discrimination. There will also be blogs from staff and students which challenge everyday norms and narratives.

We recognise that this is only the tip of the iceberg and that there is much good work occurring in every School in the University. We are keen to hear from staff and students who might wish to join in this conversation. If you would like to share your practice or contribute, please contact the series editors Rowena Arshad, James Smith and Josephine Foucher via If there is sufficient interest, we will run podcasts into 2020/21 academic session drawing on your contributions.

We are delighted that our first contribution from Anja Klein, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament addresses the possibility and tensions of  teaching sensitive topics.

Previous Teaching Matters posts on Diversity and Inclusion that you may find interesting:

further university initiatives:

  • Centre for Education for Racial Equality (CERES) new blog series
  • Ekasi Podcast created by Mastercard Foundation Scholars


Photo of Rowena Arshad

Rowena Arshad

Professor Rowena Arshad CBE, FEIS was formerly the Head of Moray House School of Education and Sport.  She currently convenes College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science (CAHSS) Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. She is a member of the University EDI Committee and convenes the Race Equality and Anti-Racist Sub-Group. Rowena also chairs a Scottish Government Working Group on                   Diversifying the Teaching Profession. Rowena is also attached to the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES) and is a member of the RACE.ED forum at the University. Her teaching, research, knowledge exchange and scholarship activities have been in the area of race equality, anti-racism and equalities in general.

Photo of James Smith

James Smith

Professor James Smith in Vice Principal International and Professor of African and Development Studies at the University of Edinburgh. James is chair of the advisory group of the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, a member of the ESRC’s Council, and a trustee of the international non-governmental organisation, Practical Action.

In his role as Vice Principal James leads on the University’s global collaborations and activities, and support for international staff and students. He is also responsible for shaping Edinburgh’s international strategy.

James’s research focuses on the role of knowledge and innovation in international development and he is writing a monograph encapsulating a recent European Research Council-funded study examining research into and control of African trypanosomiasis in both humans and animals across the tsetse fly belt of Africa. Previous projects have focused on the emergence of biofuels and agricultural biotechnologies in Africa and South Asia.

Joséphine Foucher

Joséphine is doing a PhD in Sociology at The University of Edinburgh. Her research looks at the intersection between art and politics. She works as the Teaching Matters Deputy Editor and Student Engagement Officer.


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