Maths at university to be 'decolonised' as new guide calls for subject to be 'more inclusive'

Professors are being urged to consider if they are mostly citing "white and male" researchers

Published

The maths curriculum at Durham University is to be “decolonised” as academics are urged to make the subject “more inclusive” and consider the “cultural origins” of the theories they teach.

Professors have been instructed to provide students with “short biographies” of the researchers they cite and be more aware if they are predominantly “white or male".

Durham’s website states this is part of the institution’s bid to achieve equality and that the mathematical curriculum “means considering the cultural origins of the mathematical concepts, focuses, and notation we most commonly use".

They added: "It involves ensuring the global project to expand our understanding of mathematics genuinely global, and frankly assessing the discipline’s failures – past and present – to work towards that aim.

Durham University library at Palace Green
Durham University library at Palace Green
Protesters at Durham University
Protesters at Durham University

“The question of whether we have allowed western mathematicians to dominate in our discipline is no less relevant than whether we have allowed western authors to dominate the field of literature.

“It may even be important, if only because mathematics is rather more central to the advancement of science than is literature."

A Durham University spokesperson told MailOnline: “Mathematical Sciences at Durham are a rigorous and comprehensive discipline.

“The maths curriculum our students learn remains the same, and we also encourage students to be more aware of the global and diverse origins of the subject, and the range of cultural settings that have shaped it. Two plus two will always equal four.”

This comes as the University is undertaking a review into its policies for inviting external speakers, following a row over a speech by Rod Liddle at a dinner last year.

Students walked out of the dinner at South College during the columnist’s speech after he said, according to student paper The Palatinate: “A person with an X and a Y chromosome, that has a long, dangling penis, is scientifically a man, and that is pretty much, scientifically, the end of the story.”

At the time, South College principal Professor Tim Luckhurst was criticised for calling students “pathetic” for walking out, even though most were unaware that Mr Liddle would be speaking when they chose to attend.

Prof Luckhurst stepped back from his duties, but has since resumed them at the start of the academic term.