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UCL celebrates eugenicists, racists and colonialists. Shocking but sadly, it’s a fact. A walk around campus shows an institution that sees fit to name its buildings after individuals whose work dehumanises those who are not racialised as white. 

The Petrie Museum, The Pearson Building, and the Francis Galton Laboratory and Lecture Theatre all commemorate academics whose work has links to Nazism and British Colonialism.

Besides this, the University teaches curricula which is disproportionately weighted towards white, male academics which is not reflective of its diverse student body. To date, we do not believe that the University has done enough to acknowledge its past and change its taught content to reflect a global voice.

We are all responsible for this and must make our voices heard and drive for change!

You have the power to challenge this and as we start the third and final term, this may be the last chance for some students to engage in our Decolonise UCL campaign. This is your term three to do list.

1. Start a conversation

Simple enough right? Talk to your fellow students and to your lecturers to give them a little background on UCL’s murky past and put decolonisation as a top priority. How many students know that UCL was the birthplace of Eugenics? Probably not enough! This pseudoscience, founded by scientist, Francis Galton, laid the basis for many genocides including those carried out by figures such as Hitler and Churchill.

2. Challenge course content

UCL claims that it is ‘London’s Global University’ but the curricula is dominated by white, male voices. 

This has contributed to the BME attainment gap and does not reflect a diverse global voice and a diverse student body. Speak to your course rep and to your lecturer about making a balanced course.

3. Turn the screw

Apply pressure on the University in any way you can. Use social media to put a lean on the University. If you see inappropriate institutionalised behaviour or things are not happening in the way you want, call them out or ask them questions! Even if you don’t want to highlight specific behaviour, spread the word by sharing our Decolonise UCL homepage.

Public image is of huge importance to UCL, so questioning the racist practices on public forums such as Twitter will be impactful. Use and watch #DecoloniseUCL to help the movement grow. 

4. Decolonise the mind

Don’t forget to look after yourself. UCL can be an intimidating white space where students of colour are made to feel they don’t belong and don’t deserve to be there. 

Exam season can be stressful time and it is important for all students to be taking steps to maintain good mental health. This is especially important for students of colour. Our research with the Heads Up campaign revealed that students of colour are less likely to use support services. Make sure you access Student Psychological Services and Student Support and Welfare advisors to receive extra help if you need it. 

Remember your worth and remember as a student of colour you more than deserve to be in this space.

5. Watch out for the toolkit

We are currently developing a student toolkit that will give you with the information and resources you need to challenge your taught course content and the wider institution. It will help you to identify bias and colonialist legacies and learn how to have the conversations needed to highlight and question them. 

When it’s finished, people all over campus should be talking about it. You are the ones who are best placed to make sure it is used and promoted so make sure you make lots of noise when it comes!


Have you already been doing things to address the racial imbalance at UCL? If so, we’d love to hear about it so we can share with students the most effective ways to make a change. Get in touch with b.westlake@ucl.ac.uk with your stories.

It is vital to remember that Decolonise UCL is not just important to BME students. Representation and inclusion is vital to all students who want to broaden their minds and have a sense of belonging.

Ayo Olatunji, BME Students’ Officer 17/18