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University of Exeter Medical School

Decolonising Medicine, An Introduction

Module titleDecolonising Medicine, An Introduction
Module codeCSC2025
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Musarrat Maisha Reza (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module explores the concept of decolonization in Higher Education Institutes, with a specific focus on Science and Medicine.

You will investigate the extent to which Science and Medicine from the Global North as we know it today, have been largely founded on colonialism, oppression, slavery, discrimination and injustice. This will form the basis for critical analysis of key historical events [e.g. Tuskegee Experiment: the infamous Syphilis study; J Marion Sims (The Father of Modern Gynaecology) surgically experimenting on enslaved Black women] and the extent to which they perpetuate exclusion and injustice on modern day education, healthcare and clinical practice. You will present your research in an individual opinion piece that will be formulated with objectivity and supported by existing evidence and literature. All differing viewpoints backed by research and evidence are highly welcome and recommended to enhance the vibrancy and robustness of discussions and debates.

This module will also enable you to reflect on the role you can play now and in future, regardless of your career paths, to dismantle systems founded on racism and oppression and contribute to an ecosystem of equality, diversity and inclusion. Through this module, you will become co-creators of solutions and strategies to make Science and Medicine more inclusive and representative, which can then be integrated into the Exeter curricula.

This module will be available to students both within and outside of the Medical Sciences programme (where programme specifications allow). Prior subject knowledge is not required.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Decolonizing higher education curricula has been more energetically discussed within the sphere of university scholarship and research since the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ Oxford’s campaign. Much light has been shed on the necessity of critically assessing the colonial legacy of the higher education institutes in the UK. The National Union of Students in the UK has been running campaigns such as ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ And #LiberateMyDegree since 2015. These movements have now given universities a platform to dismantle aspects of coloniality in the curricula.

Decolonizing Science is often perceived to be irrelevant with unclear definitions and poorly understood contexts. This module encourages you to investigate the extent to which knowledge generated from the Global North (Europe and America), in terms of research, education, communication and practice have been built on colonialism, slavery, oppression, discrimination and injustice. You will explore the problematic nature of studying Science and Medicine from only the Eurocentric/Western lens, overlooking its historical contexts and excluding non-Western knowledge creators. You will get opportunities to discuss and debate the extent of impact and influence of historical atrocities on our education and healthcare practices today. All differing viewpoints backed by research and evidence are highly welcome and recommended to enhance the vibrancy and robustness of discussions and debates.

The module further encourages you to interrogate the lack of visibility and representation of ethnic minority knowledge creators and question if there is a culture of non-acceptance of knowledge produced from the Global South. You will get an opportunity to explore the vast contributions made by scientists from the ethnic minorities and individuals who are not commonly represented in academic Literature.

The module intends to empower you to start difficult conversations, take actionable steps and hold decision makers accountable in order to facilitate the deconstruction and transformation of the unrepresentative Eurocentric knowledge systems. You will identify, within your own positionality, how to push for the dismantling of unfair and discriminatory systems and investigate if such systems have enabled European and North American universities to dictate knowledge perception and dissemination.

Subject matters like these elicit a myriad of responses and thoughts, so it is intended that you will learn to express and communicate your opinions, backed by research and facts, in a respectful and empathetic manner. It will also encourage you to work in groups and consider varying points of views and embrace objectivity when presenting your thoughts.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Identify and describe how historical methods of practicing Science and Medicine have shaped modern scientific and medical progress, enabling pervasive practices to be overlooked.
  • 2. Discuss the concept of decolonizing the curriculum, in context of the Science and Medicine curricula.
  • 3. Investigate the factors that lead to ignoring or overlooking discoveries and inventions made by ethnic minorities in available academic Literature.
  • 4. Critically analyse the practical implications of a colonized curricula on academia, research and healthcare.
  • 5. Interrogate with a decolonial lens, the role individuals can play in addressing current challenges to create an ecosystem of EDI in education and the workplace with diverse representation of knowledge and knowledge creators.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Critically assess reading material on the imperial and colonial influence on shaping Science and Medicine using guiding questions.
  • 7. Formulate opinions and arguments backed by research and evidence and present them in verbal and written assignments.
  • 8. Translate the knowledge acquired from taught and independent study material to recommend solutions or tools to ensure greater EDI in Science and Medicine.
  • 9. Present solutions and recommendations through written work and oral presentation after reflective thinking.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Teamwork: Work effectively and with due respect as part of a research team- taking responsibility in leading or as an active group member.
  • 11. Public Speaking: Engage in public speaking and harness presentation skills.
  • 12. Effective Communication: Respectful engagement with one another in expressing varying opinions and in providing constructive feedback for reflection.
  • 13. Critical Thinking: Critical analysis and reflection of evidence presented in literature or in group discussions.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows: 

  • Introduction and exploring the aims of the module. 
  • Decolonizing the curricula: The relevance of decolonization in Science and Medicine, common misconceptions and the path forward. 
  • Hidden figures: Hidden contributions by Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indigenous Persons and People of Colour; interrogating the lack of visibility of non-White knowledge creators and knowledge from the Global South.
  • Ethics in medical research: A historical perspective and contemporary progress. 
  • Perception of pain through the century; disturbing reasons why Black patients may be undertreated for pain.
  • Who gets antibiotics first? Racial and ethnic differences in antibiotic prescription. 
  • Women of colour and consent in medicine: The case of Puerto Rican women and the pill in context of colonialism. 
  • Tuskegee Syphilis study: Denial of Syphilis treatment to African American men. 
  • Willowbrook Hepatitis experiments: Discovery of Hepatitis vaccine by experimenting on mentally disabled children. 
  • COVID-19 and inequality: The disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities. 
  • Co-creating solutions and dismantling systems of discrimination around us. 


The module provides learning opportunities about the historical events that have shaped Science and Medicine and provides reading materials, videos and other resources prior to Workshop sessions for students to carry out individual reading and research.

Guiding questions will be provided before Workshop sessions so that students can engage in reflective thinking on their research and generate further relevant questions.

Workshop sessions will be facilitated by small group facilitators who will guide students to have discussions among themselves and explore relevant questions aligned with the learning outcomes.

Topics for debate will be set together between students and facilitators based on the focus/interest for each seminar group and a mid-term debate plan will be formatively assessed with verbal feedback.

Summative group debates will assess the ability to formulate and present balanced and evidence-based arguments coherently and in an effective and respectful manner.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching24(12 x 2 hours) Workshops
Guided Independent Study26Group debate preparations
Guided Independent Study25Reading, research and analysis
Guided Independent Study25Journal write-ups
Guided Independent Study50Preparation for opinion piece

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Opinion Piece Proposal500-700 words (~1.5 pages)1-9, 13Oral and Written
Group Debate Plan/Draft1000 words (~ 2 pages)1-6, 8-10, 12-13Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
5 Journal Entries (6% per entry) 30Through the term; 300-word limit per entry (~1.25 pages including template)1-9, 13Brief Comments/Suggestions
Group Debate (4 students /group)205 min per student1-13Personal/Verbal
Individual Opinion Piece video507-minutes 1-9, 13Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
5 Journal Entries (30%)5 Journal Entries 300-word limit per entry (~1.25 pages including template)1-9, 13Ref/Def period
Group Debate (20%)5 min- Individual Oral Presentation of Debate Proposal AllRef/Def period
Individual Opinion Piece video (50%) Individual Opinion Piece 1-9, 13Ref/Def period

Re-assessment notes

Please refer to the TQA section on Referral/Deferral:

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

INDICATIVE LEARNING RESOURCES - The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that you are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Convener.

[Book] Decolonizing the University
Edited by Gurminder K. Bhambra, Kerem Ni?anc?o?lu and Dalia Gebrial, Pluto Press, 2018.

[Book] Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

By Harriet A. Washington, Doubleday Books, 2006.

[Book] Science, colonialism, and indigenous peoples: The cultural politics of law and knowledge
By Laurelyn Whitt, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Key words search

science, history, ethics, medicine, medical sciences, colonialism, decolonization, racial injustice, oppression, discrimination, equality, diversity, Western medicine, Western Science, European Science

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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