Universities Scotland

Race Equality Toolkit

Learning and Teaching

Embedding Race Equality into the Curriculum

#1Providing opportunities to engage with the concepts of racism, racial equality and ethnic diversity

Racism in higher education is mostly hidden and deeply denied. Only when lecturers open up discussions about racism and students begin to give their points of view do problematic outlooks and preconditioned mindsets emerge. Once they emerge, they can be dealt with.

student comment

Racism is learnt, and it can be unlearnt.

Providing opportunities for students to critically consider how racism is woven into everyday text, practice and thinking helps them to unpack a concept that is complex and constantly evolving. It can also assist students to understand how discrimination affects the lives of those who experience it. This may be particularly important for those whose own life experiences will not generally bring them into contact with such issues, but who may need to understand them in response to the impact of an increasingly diverse society on their studies and on their own future employment requirements.

Creating the inclusive curriculum does not just involve including a

range of different intellectual traditions, different ways of knowing, and different racial perspectives

(Brookfield 2007, p. 557 )1

but also requires the problematising of dominant perspectives and voices (e.g. Eurocentrism and the dominance of Western perspectives) and assisting students to consider and debate different values, views and traditions. Diversifying the curriculum without critical discussion about these diverse perspectives would potentially render the process

intellectually vapid


The following examples demonstrate how academics can stimulate student thinking and discussions on matters related to racism and race equality.

1.1Integrating race and diversity issues into the entire degree programme

The process of mainstreaming is a useful strategy to adopt when considering matters of racial equality in the curriculum. Mainstreaming is an approach where opportunities are sought and developed to integrate issues concerning equality (including race equality) and racism into courses so that they permeate the core of a subject, rather than the issues being marginalised or inserted as an afterthought.

The following examples illustrate how this can be achieved in various ways and across different subjects.

Geosciences: Geography

equality and inequality issues (including race equality) are integrated throughout the curriculum.

In Year 1 the importance of geographical enquiry to understandings of contemporary debates on social identities, human rights and citizenship is examined.

In Year 2, race, racism and racialisation are discussed in depth, helping students to understand the connections between economic and political organisation and social and spatial organisation. The geography of social inequality is also addressed in this year.

Year 3 focuses on epistemological and methodological debates as well as research methods. Discussions take place around geography’s role in British imperialism and the complex (racialised) legacy that is left; consideration is given to power inequalities and race and ethical issues in the conduct of research.

At honours level, options offered include courses on specific areas such as Caribbean societies, South Africa (before and after apartheid), minorities in multicultural society and issues of migration and movement.


Several courses are offered at different levels, which enable students to explore issues of racism and racial matters from a range of perspectives.

In Year 1, there is a course examining Britain in the world following 1914 where issues of national identity and multicultural Britain are examined; this includes considering racist host responses. There is an essay option on New Commonwealth immigrants in Britain since 1945.

In Year 3, there is a course “Black people in Britain 1750–1950: racism, riot and reaction”, and, in the final honours year, a course on “Immigration to Britain 1881–1981” which looks at various immigrant groups and at local government and host responses.


The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 is highlighted as part of the core modules e.g. Legal Reasoning, Legal Systems. Students are required to consider not only the form (structuring) of law but also the content. By using the example of the Act, student awareness of equality legislation is raised within the main framework of the curriculum.

Religious Studies

Including writers from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds opens up different approaches on a subject. Reading black Christian educators2 in the UK discussing the importance of engaging with anti-racist discourse as a way of discovering “self” and making sense of context opens up the discussion possibilities for the whole cohort.


Science is often thought of as the knowledge of nature where proof is acquired through scientific methods and analysis e.g. the use of quantitative measures of physical variables.

An anti-racist approach to science teaching3 is introduced so that students can consider different world views or cosmologies prior to the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Critical consideration is given to the impact of the scientific revolution, which separated faith and values, matter and mind, mechanism and purpose, and a mechanical philosophy of science is compared to a more organismic way of thinking about science.

The key is to enable students to have the opportunities to consider all the following as well as any mutual interrelationship between them:

  • origins;
  • assumptions;
  • articulations;
  • who benefits;
  • alternatives

Sports Studies

Racism is discussed at all levels of the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum.

Year 1 students consider the impact of racism on sports participation and steps that can be taken to address any issues.

Year 2 students consider how racism and ethnicity impact on expressions of nationalism and nationhood in and through sport.

The curriculum draws on international experiences such as the Women?s Islamic Sports Movement based in Tehran.

Years 3 and 4 include modules examining the links between ethnicity, sport, gender and identity where issues of social division are explored.

Postgraduate courses cover racism in sport both in Scotland/the UK and on an international scale.

1.2Including discrete modules on race equality, racism and diversity

Another possible approach is to design specific modules, or a series of modules, to allow students to engage with and address issues related to race and diversity.

Biology: Genetic Engineerings

A specific unit opens up discussion about how genetics, genetic engineering and eugenic social theory have been used to legitimise racism and other forms of inequality.

Discussions also focus on changes in genetic formation today compared to the genetic formation of the historic past with the increase of inter-continental movement and people raising children from mixed racial backgrounds.

An examination of genetic differences and/or similarities can be carried out in a way that includes discussion of multicultural changes in genetic evolution, accounting for different skin, eye and hair colour within and across ethnicities4.

Human Resource Management

A one-semester class on Managing Equality and Diversity, including a specific module on Cultural Diversity, is offered. The module enables students to consider how culturally- based differences shape values, attitudes and behaviours.

The module also explores managerial styles from different parts of the world, for example from Western Europe, the USA and three Asian countries, and the importance of cross-cultural communication and global cross-cultural interactions and ventures.

Medicine: General Practice & Primary Care

Students are offered opportunities to consider medical ethics from different perspectives. A module is offered on Islamic Medical Ethics which has been drawn up in collaboration with the Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association in the UK.

Such courses are intended to better prepare future doctors for working in ways that are relevant to an increasingly diverse public. It posits perspectives different from Judeo-Christian ones and addresses issues such as abortion, fertility, sanctity of life, and organ donation, enabling students to discuss issues openly while developing their knowledge in these areas.

Postgraduate Careers Guidance

Modules are included requiring students to reflect on their own values and attitudes and how these affect personal and professional interaction and ethical practice, and to consider barriers, including racial discrimination, that may be faced by minority ethnic groups in training, education, recruitment and selection.

Social Work

Students are offered specific modules on diversity issues which incorporate race equality and anti-racism. Such modules familiarise them with the societal context within which their work will be undertaken and these factors are built explicitly into the learning outcomes. For example, students will demonstrate an understanding of the nature of social work in a diverse society with particular reference to a range of relevant concepts including prejudice and personal, cultural, institutional and structural discrimination; students have to be able to explain the links between different equality areas (taking into account multiple identities and discrimination) and are then assessed on their part of the class presentation and through a written examination.

Social work modules mainstream issues of race equality throughout. For example, Law and Legal Framework will address the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000; Social Work Processes and Practice will consider how professional practice can be anti-racist and anti-discriminatory; Risk and Protection considers issues of culture and the implications for risk assessment and preventative social work practice.

1.3Using literature to generate discussion on race and diversity

Literature is a pivotal medium through which ideas are presented and learnt. Including writings by authors from diverse backgrounds, and analysing content that reflects on diversity, is therefore an effective way of covering issues.

Centre for Continuing Studies

Utilising two defining bodies of thought, the writings of Edward Said on cultural imperialism and “Otherness” and Pierre Bourdieu’s work on cultural capacity and hegemony, students are encouraged to think beyond Eurocentric boundaries. In this example, the focus is on “traditional art history”. Students are supported with other formal measures including study tours, small didactic exhibitions, and master classes offered by tutors/lecturers of other cultures, including classes in Chinese brush painting, Indian miniature painting, and Australian aboriginal theory and practice.


Utilising Jean Rhys’s novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which explores issues of slavery, colonialism, patriarchy and exploitation, students are enabled to discuss directly issues of race and gender. The topics are further embedded by setting an assignment question asking students to critique the role of one of the central characters in relation to colonial patriarchy. Such issues are also explored in more contemporary texts by Zadie Smith, Toni Morrison, Adhaf Souief, David Dabydeen and other authors.

Modern Languages and Cultures

Inclusion of Francophone writers such as Mehdi Charef (Le thé au harem d’Archi Ahmed) and Calixthe Beyala (Le petit prince de Belleville) and their perspectives assists students to consider issues of racial diversity and intercultural awareness as well as their own attitudes and cultural assumptions about “others”. Issues of identity, education, “banlieue” culture (rich/poor, insider/outsider), and immigration are discussed alongside contemporary intercultural issues.

Scottish writing and the new millennium

When considering contemporary Scottish literature, a conscious effort is made to include minority ethnic writers. Each writer chosen had something new to say about Scotland, though not always necessarily in terms of race equality. In Jackie Kay’s work, for example, issues of gender and identity are addressed.

These writers utilise the theme of silenced voices and dominant narratives to explore particular kinds of experiences in Scotland, and in Britain in general. These works assist students to identify with voices often unheard, whether for reasons of race, gender, social class or faith, and to juxtapose these voices with those in authority.

Some works suggested:

Leila Aboulela
The Translator
Bashabi Fraser
Tartan and Turban
Jackie Kay
“In My Country” (poem)
Suhayl Saadi
The Burning Mirror
Luke Sutherland
Venus as a Boy

1.4Utilising contemporary issues and initiatives to address race and diversity

These examples illustrate how contemporary policy or media issues can be used to highlight the issues of race and diversity. They also demonstrate that active promotion of change is needed to achieve racial equality. This also signals to the students that matters of racism are not merely historical, but are current and relevant to governments, policy makers, business and community groups.

Community Education

Students are offered opportunities to consider how individuals and groups from minority ethnic communities work with majority communities to challenge racism. Resistance theories are examined in the context of challenging injustice. Scottish examples of how communities have come together to act against racism, for example the Muirhouse Anti-Racist Campaign in Edinburgh, and Sighthill residents challenging racism against asylum seekers in Glasgow, are used to illustrate the relevance of addressing issues of racism within Scotland.


Newspaper articles from France are used to raise current issues related to race and faith to generate discussions. Themes such as the ban on Muslim headscarves in state schools, racism and football, immigration, ethnicity, citizenship, housing and riots are among those discussed. Modern texts reflecting the diverse nature of France as well as raising race-related issues are used.


Drawing from the Scottish Government’s One Scotland: No Place for Racism, marketing students are provided with the opportunity to examine the issues of research and communications in marketing and the challenges of marketing and communicating social justice issues to effect attitudinal change.

Religious Studies

The study of Islam post 9/11 incorporates discussion about those who feel directly or indirectly affected by the event and subsequent global attitudes to areas like ?the war on terror?. Academic requirements of objectivity and reliable sources are problematised. The discussions by one lecturer provide ideas and further useful links to the issue5.

1.5Reflecting and learning from minority ethnic experiences in the context of specific subjects

It is important for discussions around race, racism and racial diversity to be informed by the experiences of people who are in the minority or whose lives are more likely to be affected by discrimination. The following examples demonstrate how some courses draw from the experiences of minority ethnic people both in Scotland and elsewhere as part of their course content.

Film and Media Studies: Journalism

Contemporary topics are brought in to raise awareness of race-related issues such as the experiences of asylum seekers and migrants in Scotland.


Information concerning minority ethnic experiences in such areas as employment and educational attainment, along with Census data, are used to assist students to consider matters of representation/under-representation, possible discrimination and the need to develop appropriate provision.

Examples of how schools have taken forward the promotion of good race relations as well as teaching about racism and racial discrimination are used as positive examples of current practice in the field. The experiences of minority ethnic pupils are discussed in order to provide space for voices often less heard6.

Human Resource Management

The Year 2 Human Resource Management module considers labour market experiences of women and minority ethnic groups in Scotland and within the UK. Considerations include examining racism and racial discrimination in the workplace. The purpose here is to alert future Human Resource staff to the relevance of the issues for their professional area.

1.6Relating race and diversity issues to the course of study

Students are more likely to take issues of race and diversity more seriously if they can relate the issues to the course of study. Therefore integration of the issue is most effective when it can draw from the core areas of the subject.

The following examples illustrate some creative ways of considering issues of race and diversity in different subject areas.

Biological and Environmental Sciences: Countryside Management

When considering issues related to access to and accessibility of urban green spaces, students are asked to consider what might deter people from making use of nature reserves (e.g. presence of racist graffiti or attitudes of other users) and to consider how to use countryside management and interpretation to encourage people to take up usage.

Bio-Medical Science: Genetic Screening

A lecture on recessive genetic diseases moves beyond a concentration on diseases more common in Caucasian ethnic groups in Northern Europe and North America, such as cystic fibrosis, to consideration of diseases that may also affect Asian, African or Mediterranean groups such as b-thalassaemia (a form of anaemia). Text from medical and scientific staff from other parts of the world on these diseases is drawn from. The experience of the development of this approach is further discussed by the lecturer at Making the facts fit: using examples relevant to one’s student audience.

Community Health Sciences

Students are assisted to consider strategies for tackling racial harassment at work through critical incident case studies. For example, students are asked to consider how they might work with a patient in an outpatient department who refuses to be treated by a minority ethnic member of staff. They are asked to consider this from both the staff perspective and that of the patient.

The course also enables students to examine their own beliefs and attitudes, the scope and extent of racism in the National Health Service, and how NHS policies have changed to reflect the diverse society in Scotland. Such inclusion complements training that NHS staff already receive in the area of equalities, particularly in assisting staff to work with patients from different cultural and faith backgrounds.

Computing: Information Technology

Race as an issue is addressed within the curricular material of identified units. An example includes a demonstration of the “tools” feature of the Microsoft package. Students are alerted to the “language tool” function, which enables editing of multiple languages in office documents and provides multilingual features and different language formats. The demands of different languages (for example Arabic, Chinese and Urdu) are discussed.

Electronic documents are prepared in different languages, affording the opportunity to discuss the business layouts used in different cultures, their different salutations etc. The justification tool of the word processor is applied to these documents and comparisons drawn with regard to the justification rules across cultures. Many students are unaware that Arabic documents are justified to the right and are read from right to left, which is the opposite of the Western rules of left justification and reading left to right.

Potential difficulties encountered by companies are introduced as subjects for discussion in lessons. The curriculum is thus diversified in terms of nationality and ethnicity and adopts a more internationalist nature, improving understanding of how computer technology is used across continents.

History, Medicine and Philosophy of Science - an interdisciplinary collaboration

The history, philosophy and ethics of science, technology and medicine are taught within Cultural History. Other disciplines, such as Anthropology, English, History, Philosophy and Physics, are included in the lectures. Cultural History approaches the development of cultures in an interdisciplinary manner, integrating perspectives from philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, literature, film, art history, religion, and science. Staff collaborate to explore the relationship between literature and science, technology and medicine.

The History Department studies the History of Medicine exploring cultural issues and approaches in different areas such as nutrition, psychiatry, and witchcraft. Within History of Science and Technology, popular representations of geological knowledge and railway history in nineteenth-century Britain and in Russia are explored.

Science of Speech and Language Therapy

The teaching of speech and language generally draws from European tongues. Languages from other parts of the world use sounds that can seem “alien” to the European listener. Tones and tongue control during speech are different across cultures and ethnic groups. Students of speech and language practise phonetic techniques in an attempt to have a bank of sounds that can be translated into any language.

The teaching of speech and language should embed in its course content some time to practise with speakers of non-European languages such as Urdu, Arabic and Chinese that have sounds not normally heard in European languages. Where funds permit, student exchanges or placements within different linguistic communities or visits to countries where different languages are spoken could provide European students with concentrated practice of such languages. This assists practice not only where clients speak a different language but also when they have speech difficulties.


In tutorials/group critiques and discussions, students are asked to discuss and question the interpretation of visual statements from a wide range of perspectives including

  • cultural references;
  • doctrines and belief systems;
  • cultural context and displacement;
  • developing understanding of the implications of potentially provocative concepts, objects, images and actions.

These sessions are useful in drawing on a range of student views, enabling those from different cultural or national contexts to contribute their ideas and interpretations.

Youth Work and Drama

The course requirements build in an explicit learning outcome that qualifying students will be able to engage with issues of diversity as part of their practice. Course design then ensures that students are provided with opportunities to draw from diverse ethnic, cultural and linguistic communities in Scotland in developing their competencies - such as creating drama for different purposes using a variety of different conventions, genres, styles and traditions (e.g. Greek theatre, Kathkali, Kabuki theatre, Noh theatre, Commedia dell’Arte, pantomime and cabaret).

  1. Brookfield, S. (2007) “Diversifying curriculum as the practice of repressive tolerance”, Teaching in Higher Education, vol. 12, nos. 5-6, pp. 557-68
  2. See An Educational Approach to Intercultural Teaching and Learning: Some Preliminary Reflections. See also Black Theology: An International Journal, e.g. Balia, D. (2009) “A reader to "read" the British reader: teaching and learning by means of black theology”, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 100-111. For views on liberation theology see http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/liberati.htm.
  3. Ideas in this paragraph adapted from Young, R. (1992) “Racist society, racist science”, in Gill, D., Mayor, B. and Blair, M. (eds) Racism and Education: Structures and Strategies, London: Sage Publications with Open University Press.
  4. For additional reading on using genetic diversity as a teaching tool, see Daniels, L. B. (2007) “Diversity and multiculturalism in the science classroom”, in Branche, J., Mullennix, J. and Cohn, E.R. (eds) Diversity across the Curriculum: A Guide for Faculty in Higher Education, Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, pp. 293-6. For further ideas on race equality issues and science, see the Science, Technology and Race course at Stanford University and the History of Science: Science and Race course at Harvard University.
  5. See Studying Islam after 9-11: Reflections and Resources.
  6. Further useful reading on how student teachers in Southampton view the issue of “race” and diversity: Bhopal, K., Harris, R. and Rhamie, J. (2009) “The teaching of “race”, diversity and incusion on PGCE courses: a case study analysis of University of Southampton”.