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Sunday, October 24, 2021

University pays students £15 an hour to decolonise curriculum

Students are being paid almost £15 an hour to be “critical readers” in a decolonisation trawl of a Russell Group university’s courses.

The University of Edinburgh is hiring students part-time to review course materials and curricula “through the lenses of equality, diversity, inclusion, and decolonisation”.

They will be paid £14.66 per hour and work six hours a week within one of the 16th century university’s most prestigious faculties, literatures, languages and cultures.

The recruits will report to academics on the faculty’s board of studies to help diversify courses such as English literature and foreign languages, focusing on issues such as race, gender, sexuality and disability.

An internal job advert for the posts, seen by The Telegraph, says applicants must “have an interest in decolonising the curriculum” and “a strong commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion”, with these listed under the “essential” specifications. Experience of campaigning is listed as “desirable”.

‘Institutionalised censorship’

Last night scholars criticised the move as an attempt to “institutionalise censorship” by lending credence to “activist students”.

The students will receive training before embarking on “reading and reviewing” course materials during November and December. The pilot project is funded through the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme which receives donations from alumni and the public.

One Edinburgh academic, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph: “The connotations of this are fairly clear, undergraduate students may be in a position to be paid to vet and ‘decolonise’ curricula proposed by the academics they’re supposedly meant to be learning from.

“Universities already throw a gauntlet of reviews at academics trying to run courses without activist students getting their say.”

The academic also expressed concern that tutors on similar pay scales in Russian history may face being “answerable” to English literature students “with little to no knowledge” of their subject.

‘Shutting down discussion’

Prof Frank Furedi, a sociologist at Kent University, added: “It tries to institutionalise censorship – there’s already that disposition to shut down discussion and now they’re giving people money for it.”

It forms part of intensifying decolonisation efforts at the institution, which has created a steering group to identify “controversial elements of the university’s past” so that “reparatory recommendations” can be made.

Computer science lecturers have been urged not to use the “Western” names Alice and Bob in informatics terminology, while the David Hume Tower was renamed after activists surfaced remarks the enlightenment philosopher uttered in the 18th century.

Earlier this year, Edinburgh academics revolted to call for the university’s principal, Prof Peter Mathieson, to resign. They alleged that an “intolerant and illiberal” culture had taken root after one scholar was investigated over “problematic” views.

While Edinburgh is thought to be the first to pay student critical readers, last year the University of Sheffield hired students on £9.34 an hour to monitor and challenge so-called “micro-aggressions” on campus.

An Edinburgh University spokesman said it was “committed to addressing contemporary and historic inequalities” and the students would “explore how the school’s current curriculum can engage students robustly, rigorously, and inclusively”.

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