Decolonising your Reading List

Books and chairs in the library


Why should I decolonise my reading list?

Decolonising reading lists is an integral part of the work of decolonising the curriculum and enables all students to explore and reference different cultural histories and narratives in their work. This can also increase a sense of belonging within the University and so ultimately contribute to the work of closing awarding gaps. As libraries prioritise the purchase of resources from reading lists, more diverse reading lists will result in more diverse library collections overall.

How do I begin?

This guide is designed to help you decolonise your reading lists as a programme team, with support from librarians and in collaboration with students. 

To get started, think about the following when reviewing your reading list: 

1. Share your plans with others

Your knowledge and expertise of your discipline is critical to providing a well balanced reading list. Speak to other academics in your area to highlight what you are doing, and to share ideas about relevant texts.

Find out who your course Academic Support Librarian is, and speak them to them about your plans to review your reading list. They may be able to signpost you to useful resources which compliment your own subject knowledge and expertise.

2. Find resources 

Library Search is a good starting place for finding resources.   

From this page you can: 

  • Find books, journals, films and DVDs.  

  • Access all of our databases. 

  • Access reading lists. 

  • Get help and support. 

3. Challenge your reading list

Consider undertaking an audit of your reading list, so you can easily see how diverse your list may or may not be.  

Use the checklist below as a guide to evaluate and improve your reading list: 

  • Will all our students see themselves reflected in the resources you are recommending? 

  • What are the dominant voices and narratives in your areas of study?  

  • Are there any voices and narratives are excluded from your reading list?  

  • Are the texts Western-centric, or Eurocentric?  

  • Are the majority of the authors the same gender and ethnicity?  

  • Is the identify, or background of the author relevant in the context of the subject?  

  • Who is talking about whose experience and / or culture?  

  • Where was the text published?  

  • What is the language of the text? Is it a translation or in its original language?  

  • What kinds of sources do we perceive to be of most academic value and why? 

  • Also consider student accessibility in the diversity of resource types in the construction of your lists, including multi-media resources for sensory-impaired or neurodiverse students where possible and relevant. 

4. Find the marginalised voices  

Mainstream publishing tends to favour those established within the academy, and we know that some people are underrepresented, particularly staff of colour. This is slowly changing and it is important to stay abreast of existing and new scholarship by academics of colour. 

It is important to recognise that the vast majority of material used in academia is published by a narrow circle of publishers, based mainly within the US and UK. English-language publications inevitably predominate, and this reinforces the prevailing dominance of the Western-centric worldview. 

Consider using a wider variety of media sources, which are often more inclusive of emerging voices. The Library can help you access the following resources to support you in diversifying the format of materials on your reading lists: 

  • Journals and Magazines: The Library has many international titles. 

You can also consider including references to special collections and archives. Although historical archives may be predominantly white there are archival collections that offer a rich source of alternative material in certain areas. 

5. Co-create with students  

Sector research on closing awarding gaps via curriculum development states that ‘it is vital that any reviews are undertaken in partnership with students’ (NUS and Universities UK, 2019, pp 47-8). There is a host of additional literature you can access on student partnership working and curriculum co-development.  

Here are some points for consideration:  

  • Reflect on what training, preparation and guidance students need to effectively participate in curriculum decolonisation.  

  • Agree how to do this, be that alone, with librarians or with academics.  

  • Think about what will incentivise students, in particular those who are disengaging as a result of their marginalised identities, to participate in curriculum decolonisation work. 

  • Reflect on what opportunities exist to embed reading list review and decolonisation into the assessed curriculum. Consider whether this can be aligned to learning outcomes and assessment criteria.  

You might also want to consider running some activities with your students to stimulate further discussion: 

  • Create Staff-Student discussion areas of exclusion, and alternative narratives.  

  • Ask students to critique the reading list and suggest new content from their own research and experience. 

List of resources

We have developed a list of resources on the subject of decolonisation which you may find useful to consult. We would welcome recommendations of other readings, please email with your suggestions and we will add them to the list.


This page has been created with help from the University of Arts London, and the work they have already done on offering advice to decolonise your reading list.

Creative Commons Licence: CC BY-NC 4.0 Attribution: AEM Toolbox, University of the Arts London