NUS president Malia Bouattia, herself a black woman of Algerian heritage, believes that as most higher education is based on “Eurocentric” subjects, non-white undergraduates end up lagging behind.
Her comments follow an announcement from the UK government that universities need to increase their numbers of black and minority ethnic students fivefold by 2020.
In an interview with the Guardian, Bouattia attacked how ‘white’ British university curricula can be, saying: “When we look at the incredibly Eurocentric curriculum, where people don’t see themselves in what they’re studying, and can’t relate to it, and feel that their European counterparts hit the ground running, they can’t see themselves advancing in the subjects.”
She added that on top of the “vast amounts of debt” many students have accumulated by the time they reach higher education, the lack of relatable topics of study available could be “psychologically destructive.”
The 28 year-old is the first black Muslim woman to lead the student body. She has previously talked about feeling estranged from her studies after being abused by online trolls and Islamophobes.
Independent think tank Social Market director Emran Mian told the Times that “while senior academic ranks may still be insufficiently diverse, the representation of minority perspectives in UK higher education should be improving.”
“About 14 percent of academic staff in UK universities identify as being from a black or minority ethnic background and almost 17 percent of students,” he added.
Bouattia has been previously involved in controversy when she was accused of anti-Semitism after arguing that the University of Birmingham, which has a large Jewish student body, was a “Zionist outpost.” She denied the charges.