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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Weikert

Something's afoot

It's very hard to tell, at the moment, which way the wind is going to blow in UK academia. For me, this constitutes both the personal and professional sides of things - that little place in between both, that corner of scholarship that I call my own. Covid-19 has changed the academic profession, and I'm not sure yet if it's for the better or worse. Certainly, the UK context has been an utter nightmare, from the prospective of being at a teaching-intensive university, and the current government is not in the business of making education better, or more accessible, or more diverse. As an immigrant working in a UK university, I fear what's coming up ahead - what sort of ramifications lie in wait for someone who has specific programme responsibilities for decolonising the curricla, and how will my university protect me when someone comes knocking at my door?

The problem is that I daresay they won't, and that's a mark of the times all over again. Things are afoot, and not all of them are good.

Detail from the Museum of Natural History, Vienna. Photo by HubertL via Wikimedia Commons under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

I find it really hard to put into words my thoughts and feelings about UK universities right now. From the standpoint of a staff member, I'm seeing so many friends and colleagues breaking under the pressures and workloads. What was meant to be a meandering little post about potential futures is being disrupted by reading about decolonising curricula in the UK, and a friend and colleague having a breakdown about workloads. A lot of universities are cutting their History programmes (let's see, London South Bank, Kingston, cuts in a lot of universities (including my own), English programmes getting rid of pre-modern and early modern provisions - Portsmouth, Leicester...) Some of the things I passionately believe in - broadening horizons through the past and present, diversifying what we know to try to acknowledge and understand the past for social justice in the present - have become buzzwords for conservative watchdogs who, I don't know, want to pet their bulldog in front of their St George's cross sipping tea and pretending the whole world is, and always have been, white.

This isn't the history I know, nor is the the academic world that should be. Do we stay and try to create change within, even at the costs they take? Do we move to different pastures and try to hope to create better from parallel views?

What I know is, I am very tired of UKHE as it is.

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