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Decolonizing the Educational Relationship in Higher Education: Seminar series

Decolonizing the Educational Relationship in Higher Education: Seminar Series

October 1 2020 – December 31 2021

Awarded to: Professor Fatima Pirbhai-Illich and Dr Fran Martin

Research partners: University of Regina with University of Exeter

Funding awarded to Exeter $15000 CDN from the University of Regina,

Sponsor(s): University of Regina Faculty of Education, Centre for Educational Research, Collaboration, & Development (CERCD), and the University of Exeter, Centre for Social Mobility

Principal Investigator: Fatima Pirbhai-Illich
Co-Investigator: Fran Martin


About the project

For some time, scholars in settler colonial nations have been arguing for the need to decolonise education, for example, Mignolo in Argentina (2011), Smith in New Zealand (2012), Battiste in Canada (2013), Moreton-Robinson in Australia (2015) and Mbebe in South Africa (2016). Over a series of eight sessions hosted via digital technologies, university-wide faculty, staff and doctoral students at the University of Exeter, UK explored the ways in which Pirbhai-Illich and Martin’s (2020) de/colonial imaginary which included multiple forms of relationality and was developed in a Canadian teacher education context, could be adapted for use in the UK higher education context. Using a de/colonising approach to conducting research, the research processes from start to finish were grounded in ethical, equitable relations that break down the binaries of researcher-participant, colonizer-colonized, and subject-object. Our approach was therefore participatory and underpinned by collaborative approaches such as research partnerships, co-creation and co-production of knowledge. The analysis of the findings for this project are in progress. Recordings of all seminar presentations, including those also given at the University of Regina, can be found on the University of Regina, Centre for Educational Research, Collaboration, & Development. Watch on YouTube here.

Research questions

1. What do faculty, administrative staff and doctoral students learn about themselves and their praxis from a seminar series on de/colonising educational relationships in teacher education?

2. What do faculty, administrative staff and doctoral students learn about coloniality and de/coloniality from the seminar series?

3. What might be the possibilities for change to their own teaching and assessment?

4. What spaces for de/colonising educational relationships within their programmes might be created as a result?


For racialised peoples across the globe, research’ is a dirty word due to its inextricable entanglement with European imperialism and colonialism (Smith, 2012). The vocabulary of western, scientific research is therefore problematic; terms such as hypothesis, data, participant, sampling, interview, classification, analysis, objectivity, reliability, and generalisation are not neutral - for the colonised, these terms highlight the harms that they have been associated with when used in service of colonialism. In an attempt to de-link ourselves from this issue, we operated ‘from a place of humility, not from a place of entitlement’ and thought about people not as ‘data repositories from whom [we were] going to extract the data’ but as people who were generously giving of what they were willing to share (Bhattacharya, 2021). We positioned ourselves as learners and aimed to suspend our will to know by building ‘relationships without any transactional expectation, just building relationships for the sake of building relationships’ (Bhattacharya, 2021).


The potential for impact is significant. The project is intended to have an immediate impact on the University of Exeter faculty, administrators and doctoral students. The findings of the project will benefit the UoR should there be an interest from the Faculty of Education to engage in a similar program of professional development, which in turn would facilitate the development of an imaginary that could be used/adapted for a variety of contexts.


More information about the project can be found here:

De/colonising educational relationships - working with spaces, places and boundaries

De/colonising educational relationships - working with invitation and hospitality

Book now available - find out more here.