Britain’s leading veterinary college is decolonising its curriculum despite one member of staff saying they cannot think of "obvious examples".
The Royal Veterinary College launched a race equality task group last year in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests to tackle racism "both actual and perceived".
The proposals were put together to make its teaching "more inclusive", as senior staff expressed their hope the planned changes would "go some way towards honouring the memory of George Floyd".
As part of "anti-racist" reforms, the College’s courses will be probed for evidence of colonial and racial biases, which offer education on animal-handling skills like treating family pets and spring lambing.
‘Difficult to think of obvious examples’
Work will press ahead despite staff discussing in emails that it would be difficult to apply decolonisation to their field of study. One staff member admitted it was difficult to think of "obvious examples" of such bias in the college’s offering of "science-based subjects".
Addressing the difficulty of decolonising, an academic on the diversity committee advised that it would include tackling "a colonial legacy" which presents "the white, global North intellectual tradition as superior and universal".
Changes were first proposed in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, with a rapidly established race equality task group vowing to look at the staff and student "culture" at the college, and the activities of the Student Union.
It was also stated that "curricula" – which span courses on veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing, and biological sciences – would be examined as part of the overall "moral commitment to race equality".
Courses must be ‘culturally competent’
Alongside decolonising courses, staff highlighted the need to make them "culturally competent" – or able to communicate across cultural divides. Some also raised the issue of more "ethnicity and diversity teaching" within veterinary courses.
One member of staff said that the aim was to examine curricula and "think about what and how they teach reproduces racial exclusion and disadvantage", adding that: "most of the work on this has been done on the arts and humanities."
Following internal discussions, a paper on decolonising courses is being drafted at the College and will be presented to senior staff in July, with new guidance for teaching staff.
Other changes have already been introduced at the RVC, including improving protocols for anonymously reporting incidents of alleged racism.
Students – who arrange their own placements for farm work with pigs, horses, and lambs – will now be better able to complain if they "experience any type of discrimination" working outside the college.
The RVC has also discussed plans to increase the diversity of its student intake, and change its equality and diversity training "with a view to providing a programme that is more interactive and that directly addresses issues of race".
The RVC is one of the few educational institutions in the country instructing students in veterinary medicine, and it is the oldest and largest in the UK. It has its base in Camden, along with a site in Hertfordshire.
A spokesperson for the RVC, said: "The RVC is committed to decolonising curricula and pedagogy as part of our wider equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.
"Improving diversity and inclusion is an important and ongoing project, and we will be working closely alongside our partners to learn from their experience and adopt best-practice for the benefit of our students, staff and the wider RVC community."