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Why is my curriculum white? An introduction to the project

'Why is my curriculum white' was established in 2016 by Glen Jankowski and aims to critically examine and highlight the white, Western bias in social sciences.

This project involves a content analysis of curriculum whiteness; an exploration of the process through which curriculum is set among HSS staff through survey; highlighting the impact of white curriculum on BAME students through focus groups; create a digital archive for BAME/ non-Western work as well as methods in which students and staff can diversify their curriculum available to all.

Overall the project aims to establish:

  • Greater awareness of the dominance of white, Western authors in the social sciences curriculum
  • Understanding of the problems with this on BAME and white students (e.g., a Western-centric perspective, focusing on issues more relevant to white, Western people than BAME and Global Southern people)
  • Inform teaching and compliment teaching that already aims to cover how marginalization affects individuals.
  • A directory of psychologists of colour that can be used to diversify the curriculum that includes perspectives from more psychologists of colour and more research done by and with people of colour

Helping develop curriculum that is more relevant to BAME and international students as well as other students who can see another non-Western perspective).

Below is a list of resources and recommended texts which may help develop greater curriculum diversity.


Research outputs

Smith, S.V., (2016) The Leeds Beckett University (LBU) Deep Dive project: actions to address home BME undergraduate (UG) students’ degree attainment. Available to Leeds Beckett staff / students (access may be restricted).

Smith, S.V., 2017. Exploring Leeds Beckett University BME students’ experiences of “living at home”: sharing practice for curricular change and institutional actions. Available to Leeds Beckett staff / students (access may be restricted).

Flintoff, A., (2015) Playing the ‘Race’card? Black and minority ethnic students' experiences of physical education teacher education. Sport, Education and Society, 20 (2), pp.190-211. Available to Leeds Beckett staff / students.

Nairn, S., Hardy, C., Parumal, L. and Williams, G.A., (2004) Multicultural or anti-racist teaching in nurse education: a critical appraisal. Nurse Education Today, 24 (3), pp.188-195. Available to Leeds Beckett staff / students.

Dowling, F. and Flintoff, A., (2015) A whitewashed curriculum? The construction of race in contemporary PE curriculum policy. Sport, Education and Society, pp.1-13. Available to Leeds Beckett staff / students.

Caruana, V., (2009) The internationalisation of UK higher education: from ‘technical observance’to ‘relational participation’, the road to CAPRI. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, 2 (1), pp.1-28. Available to Leeds Beckett staff / students.

Journal articles

Dovidio, J.F., Gaertner, S.L. and Saguy, T., (2015) Color-blindness and commonality: Included but invisible? American Behavioral Scientist, 59 (11), pp.1518-1538.

Although overt racism still adversely affects the well-being and advancement of Black Americans, subtle racism also has a pervasive influence. Color-blind racism, a form of subtle racism, rationalizes the current disadvantaged status of Black Americans and institutionalizes practices that perpetuate the disadvantage. The present article, adopting a psychological perspective, reviews the evidence on the existence and dynamics of contemporary forms of color-blind racism. It documents how racial biases that unconsciously and uncontrollably strategically shape the behavior of White Americans, even among seemingly well-meaning people. The article further examines how White Americans emphasizing color-blindness and common connection between members of different groups can improve intergroup attitudes but reinforce hierarchical relations between groups, which benefit Whites. Understanding the nature of subtle bias and the automatic processes that may underlie it can help illuminate how seemingly well-meaning interventions can obscure its effects, creating a veneer of tolerance while deflecting attention away from unfair treatment (and thus undermining motivation for action toward equality) among members of both dominant and disadvantaged groups.

Dovidio, J.F., Gaertner, S.L., Ufkes, E.G., Saguy, T. and Pearson, A.R., (2016) Included but invisible? Subtle bias, common identity, and the darker side of “we”. Social issues and policy review, 10 (1), pp.6-46. 'Included but invisible' is also available via ResearchGate.

This article discusses how seemingly well‐intended policies and interventions to reduce intergroup bias by emphasizing colorblindness through overarching commonalities between groups may, either unintentionally or strategically, inhibit efforts to address group‐based inequities. First, we discuss the roots of bias in social categorization process, and how changing the way people think about group memberships from separate groups to members of the same group with shared identity improves intergroup attitudes. Second, we describe the subtle nature of contemporary biases, which can help obscure group‐based inequities. Third, we explain how and why majority and minority groups may have different preferences for recategorization and consider the potential consequences of these different perspectives for recognizing and addressing disparity and discrimination. We conclude by considering the policy and structural implications of these processes for achieving more equitable societies, not only in principle but also in practice.

Gómez, Á., Dovidio, J.F., Gaertner, S.L., Fernández, S. and Vázquez, A., (2013) Responses to endorsement of commonality by ingroup and outgroup members: The roles of group representation and threat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39 (4), pp.419-431.

Two experiments integrated research on the roles of common identity and social norms in intergroup orientations. Experiment 1 demonstrated that learning that ingroup members categorized the ingroup (Spaniards) and outgroup (Eastern European immigrants) within a common identity (European) produced more positive intergroup orientations toward immigrants. By contrast, learning that outgroup members held the same position elicited less positive orientations compared with a condition in which the information came from a neutral source. The effects were mediated by one-group representations. Experiment 2 also found that endorsement of a common identity generated more positive intergroup orientations when it was expressed by ingroup than outgroup members and revealed how this effect may be sequentially mediated by personal one-group representations and symbolic threat.

Charbeneau, J. (2015) White faculty transforming whiteness in the classroom through pedagogical practice. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 18 (5), p.655.

A qualitative study based in the U.S. reporting on findings from interviews with 18 teaching staff known for incorporating diversity into the classrooms. It recognises the institutional oppression through the 'hidden curriculum' embedded in higher education. The article identifies teaching practices which undermine white dominance and challenge white privilege.

Ker, R.J. (2013) Challenging the Eurocentric bias in psychology: a counselling psychologist's perspective. Phd Thesis. City University London. Available to read on the EThOS database (registration required).

The Phd thesis was originally established to understand the lack of engagement with psychological services amongst the African population but establishes the underpinning Eurocentricity of mainstream psychological theories as one of the causes. The thesis concludes for psychology to become adopted globally, it needs to claim universality (p.19). The thesis highlights the clashes of culture between a Eurocentric medical model of mental illness and indigenous explanations of mental health (p.35).

Kimura, M. (2014) Non-performativity of university and subjectification of students: the question of equality and diversity in UK universities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35 (4), p.523.

The paper argues that universities play key roles in the process of social change and transformation and also in broadening student horizons by facilitating interaction between different student groups to achieve a socially just and culturally diverse society. The paper examines how students experience discrimination in the process and reproduction of higher education culture.

Rogers, T. (2013) Should high non-completion rates amongst ethnic minority students be seen as an ethnicity issue? Evidence from a case study of a student cohort from a British university. Higher Education, 66 (5), p.535. Available to Leeds Beckett staff / students.

Based upon a single cohort at 1 post 1992 university, this paper highlights that non-completion rates amongst BME students isn't solely a matter of social class and evidences under performance may not be the single explanatory factory.

Jessop, T. and Williams, A. (2009) Equivocal tales about identity, racism and the curriculum. Teaching in Higher Education 14 (1), pp. 95-106.

The small scale study illustrates that whilst the curriculum was mostly diverse, students valued space to reflect upon their own identity and culture. The paper concludes that the curriculum could be utilised to develop an inclusive experience for all students and that through contextualising the curriculum issues of race, class, ethnicity and gender will surface.

Taylor, R. (1990) Racism, ethnicity and university adult education. Studies in The Education of Adults, 22 (2), p.211.

Aspects of multiculturalism in higher education are examined including recruitment, staffing, delivery and community outreach. The paper stresses the importance of offering a mainstream curriculum which is appropriate for our culturally plural society.

Diggles, K. (2014) Addressing racial awareness and color-blindness in higher education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 140, pp. 31-44.

Higher education institutions are seen as organisation for producing students with the ability to work in a diverse society and therefore racial awareness should be a central part of the curriculum.