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In Conversation Safyan Rahman: 2020/1 Candidate for LUU Education Officer

By Lily Gordon Brown

With voting a fortnight away, I had the opportunity of speaking with Safyan at length about his candidacy for one of the seven roles for LUU’s 2020/21 Student Exec. Safyan is running for Education Officer. We spoke extensively about the reasons why and what he hopes to achieve.

His visions centre around decolonising the curriculum, abandoning hidden course costs and

improving mental health services. Read on for more.

Tell me a bit about the role you are running for?

The Education officer is one of the seven roles in the Student Exec. The role particularly looks at how they can enrich the students’ educational and academic experience, looking at a lot of things like the curriculum, increasing informal study spaces, hidden course costs (cutting those)- making sure the academic side of university works for all students.

Why are you running, what experience have you had?

I am third year IHP student, I am BAME Liberation coordinator here at the Union, I have

done a lot of work with the Union about liberation politics, how we can reach out further

to the BAME, to the Muslim student population, and making sure that we are not ignoring

their voices. I think the reason I am running is because based off the work I have done as a

Liberation Coordinator and a student of history; I have never felt that the curriculum has

been representative of the diversity of the student body. That is one of my key manifesto

points- decolonising the curriculum and supporting the ‘Why is my Curriculum White?’


Could you please delve into that campaign a little?

The campaign was born in Leeds a few years ago, right here in the University by a previous

education officer. It was basically raising questions of why our curriculums are not

representative of the student body. Why are we not acknowledging the legacies of Empire?

I have experienced this a lot as a history student, narratives pushed that only white

scholars, white voices and white histories are the only one’s worth studying. The

dominance of white history embeds the perception that they are the most important

histories. Supporting this campaign is a two-fold: incorporating the lived experiences of all

but also enhances the set of research and employability skills of students.

Could you give me a bit of background about yourself and some of your lived experiences in relation to this?

I am BAME, Bengali and a Muslim. It has always been quite a stark reality that I don’t feel

my history has ever been incorporated in the curriculum. Would you have ever known that

nearly 3 million Bengalis were massacred in the 1971 Liberation War? The curriculum

became very personal to me, through school and university.

Was it something you noticed first at school, or did it become more prominent as you entered into the university sphere?

Subconsciously I noticed it first at school. I remember in year 7 and 8, I used to never want

to learn about the Tudors. When I began to unpack the reasons why, it was related to

monotony, being taught the same old histories. It continues at university, you and me both

have written the same essay about the Cold War multiple times.

Do you think with the white curriculum goes beyond the humanties?

Leeds has hosted a hugely popular and informative ‘Decolonising Geography’ and

‘Decolonising Psychology’ events- the former discussing the ways the ‘white saviour’

colonial narratives are perpetuated a lot in geographical studies in continents and regions

across Europe. STEM subjects also have a lot to work on, in looking at the figures they

study but also recognising diversified contributions in technologies and sciences.

Decolonising goes beyond the curriculum. We need to dismantle barriers the university

poses to BAME students- this requires diversifying the staff and addressing the BAME

attainment gap.

Could you expand more on the BAME attainment gap?

-What we are seeing is that BAME students have a higher dropout rate than white

counterparts, and they are getting less 2:1s and 1:1s by almost 10%. We need to address

how to close this gap. Studies have shown by the NUS amongst others that the more

representative curriculums are, the less apathy is felt toward education by BAME students,

the more involved and engaged they feel. University is for everyone to enjoy, to thrive.