Two people viewing a workshop presentation

Over the last few months, Birmingham Business School’s Decolonisation Project has been running a series of workshops, in partnership with New Vic Borderlines, the outreach department of the New Vic Theatre based in Newcastle under Lyme. The aim of the workshops was to delve deeper into the topic of decolonisation with UG, PGT and PGR students studying within the School, and gain their perspective on what a decolonised Business School might look and feel like. 

The School has embarked on a three-year project to decolonise its operations, incorporating teaching, research and organisational practices, and is part of the School’s vision to embed a culture of responsible business and inclusive values. Key to the approach taken is that this is collaborative, bottom-up and that everyone’s view is welcome. Following a successful funding bid for interdisciplinary research, we began developing a series of workshops that would enable us to begin these discussions with the School’s large student body.

For many of us at Birmingham Business School, the topic of decolonisation is an area that is somewhat venturing into the unknown. Working with New Vic Borderlines, we used a participatory, arts-based methodology, known as Cultural Animation, to dissolve hierarchies and democratize the process of research. We ran four workshops in total, attended by both staff and students, something we felt was important to break down barriers and foster dialogue.  

A group of students taking part in one of the workshops
Students participating in one of the workshops

The workshops began with a series of games which served to build connections among participants and encourage conversations on the ways in which power structures, inequalities, inclusion and exclusion may, albeit inadvertently, be experienced within the University-setting.

During the second half of the workshops, students were tasked with creating a visual representation of their university life, using buttons and other everyday items as a medium. The results were insightful, surprising, and highlighted some of the issues student’s felt could be addressed through decolonisation, these were themes of separation and isolation, and a lack of representation.

Items such as buttons and coffee cups on a table representing university life

To further engage staff and students who were unable to attend the workshops, a small exhibition has been created in the School reception area and will be on display until the 30th June. Here, you are invited to add your own thoughts, reflections and understandings of what decolonisation means within the context of Birmingham Business School, and what actions we all need to take to achieve it together. Alongside this, the below short film made during the workshops on display. 

Despite the global attention the demands to decolonise our academic institutions has gathered, business schools across the country are slow in their response. Complimenting the research which has already been undertaken with staff across the School, the workshops will further inform the School’s decolonisation efforts and ensure the student body is given a voice as the project progresses.