New open educational resources to help decolonise and diversify your Earth Science curriculum

By Rebecca Williams

Published on

04 Dec 2023


Read time

3 minutes

We are excited to launch our website and release the first of our infographics aimed at supporting the UK Earth Science (geology/geoscience/environmental science) community in decolonising the curriculum and Earth Science pedagogy. 

Why should UK Earth Science embrace decolonising the curriculum approaches?

A protest calling for the removal of the Rhodes statue. A group of people is standing with banners and signs calling for the removal of the statue.

Photograph: DAVID HARTLEY/REX/Shutterstock

The foundations of a discipline shape the way in which knowledge is created, by whom, for what, and dictates who is allowed to generate knowledge. The historical roots of modern Earth Science lie in early colonial principles, when geological exploration for resource extraction was a powerful tool in colonial expansion1. This era saw the rise of the predecessor to the British Geological Survey, The Geological Society of London and many of the university departments that continue to teach Earth Science today. The dominance of western institutions in Earth Science disciplines reinforces imperial and colonial power relations, where ‘powerful knowledge’ continues to ignore, belittle or erase other systems of knowledge. The founding and growth of these institutions during colonialism dictated who was allowed to practise geology. Those whose class, gender, race, or disability did not fit were excluded, and this has left a legacy of inequity in our discipline today. There is a documented diversity crisis in UK Higher Education Earth Science2. However, Earth scientists of various underrepresented and intersecting identities have always existed; their histories have just been hidden. It has been argued that any action to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion needs to start with an examination of the historical roots of contemporary experiences of exclusion and specifically to acknowledge the colonial past of the discipline2,3

Decolonising UK Earth Science pedagogy – a toolkit for all 

Our project aims to tackle the legacy of colonialism in the Earth Science discipline. We have developed a package of open access pedagogical resources to enable sector-wide recognition, learning, and conversations around the historical legacy of Earth Science and modern inequities. We hope that our resources will help us as a sector work towards our goal to decolonize UK Earth Science.

We identified a need to make Earth Science professionals and researchers aware of geology’s imperial/colonial past and the ongoing extension of colonial practices to halt the perpetuation of this legacy. We want to make explicit the exclusionary practices that were common in geological education and practice and how they manifest today. As part of this, we reveal some of the hidden histories of historically excluded and minoritised Earth Scientists, making their contributions explicitly visible.

Our resources will detail the imperial/colonial origins of geological exploration, their legacy on the modern practise of our discipline, and their impact on current inequity and make visible and celebrate the diversity of Earth Scientists that have persisted through time through narrative and story-telling.

Decolonising UK Earth Science Curricula – first infographic release.

The first infographic to be released is on “Decolonising UK Earth Science Curricula” – available here

Here we hope to introduce the topic to anyone wanting to start thinking about a decolonising the curriculum approach. Perhaps you could share this with your students and generate a discussion about your own curriculum? Perhaps you could print it and have it as a poster to generate discussion in your department or school? Perhaps pin it above your computer so that next time you are revising a module or a programme you can stop and think about what new approaches you can make to tackle decolonisation.

Further reading

  1. Rogers, S. L., Lau, L., Dowey, N., Sheikh, H., and Williams, R. (2022). Geology uprooted! Decolonising the curriculum for geologists, Geosci. Commun., 5, 189–204,
  2. Dowey, N., Barclay, J., Fernando, B. et al. (2021). A UK perspective on tackling the geoscience racial diversity crisis in the Global North. Nat. Geosci. 14, 256–259
  3. Marín-Spiotta, E., Barnes, R. T., Berhe, A. A., Hastings, M. G., Mattheis, A., Schneider, B., and Williams, B. M.: Hostile climates are barriers to diversifying the geosciences, Adv. Geosci., 53, 117–127,