Less than a quarter of people support efforts to decolonise the curriculum, according to a new poll.
Only 23 per cent of the public said they agreed with decolonising the curriculum, according to the poll by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), a think-tank, and UPP Foundation, a charity.
This was compared to 31 per cent who disagreed with it, and one third who did not have strong opinions either way.
However, the level of support for efforts changed depending on what language was used, the survey found.
The poll found the majority of respondents - around two thirds - supported making curricula wider to incorporate people, events and subjects from around the world.
Only four per cent of those polled disagreed with such a move.
The HEPI think-tank said the findings show universities can find widespread support for decolonising curricula by presenting it in a certain way.
In response to the findings, the head of the University and College Union (UCU) said: “The level of hostility towards decolonising activity in UK higher education shows just how far we have to go to tackle systemic racism.”
Jo Grady added: “Decolonising curricula benefits students from all backgrounds, but this activity is about more than just diversifying the material students are exposed to, and it should not have to be sanitised in order to win support.”
HEPI and the UPP Foundation said in their report: “People are more inclined to support changes to the curriculum when it is framed as a broadening of perspectives, rather than the removal of western-centric viewpoints.”
The poll found over a quarter of respondents thought university curricula should “prioritise a western point of view”, compared to a fifth who thought the opposite.
Anti-racism protests and campaigns that swept the country last year saw renewed calls to decolonise the curriculum across British schools and universities.
Earlier this year, the universities minister compared the decolonisation of courses to “censoring history” like the Soviet Union.
The HEPI and UPP Foundation report said: “The option for prioritising a western point of view sees more support than opposition, and the opposite is true for ‘decolonising’ the curriculum.
“However, when framed in a more neutral way, to allow choice, the same respondents move strongly in favour of it as a proposition, even though to some extent the end outcome may be similar.”
It added: “These results indicate that the language around this debate is centrally important to the level of support which it receives. “
“The word ‘decolonise’ is perhaps not well understood prompting high levels of uncertain responding, and higher rates of negativity.”
Universities are under pressure to reform their curriculum content to ensure there is greater diversity in the texts studied by students, as well as to confront the legacy of colonialism.
A number of institutions have pledged to take action to address the awarding gap for ethnic minority students, as white students on average are more likely to obtain a top degree than black and minority ethnic (Bame) students.
Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Leicester found a “lack of a sufficiently diverse or decolonised curriculum” made it difficult for black students to directly connect what they are studying to their own life experiences, which could hamper students academically.
Additional reporting by Press Association
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies