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The United Kingdom higher education system attracted 2.45 million students to its institutions in academic year 2018/19, a record year (Higher Education Statistics Agency 2020). With learners coming from all over the world it is only right that universities accommodate heterogeneous experiences by evolving their programmes, practices and spaces. After all, the fundamentals of the university (Universitatem) are meant to reflect the ‘entirety’ and ‘wholeness’ of the different universes it is meant to embody and its proclaimed manifestation as an agent for wider socio-economic transformation. The movement for an engaging and representative learning experience has gathered pace in certain disciplines notably political science, anthropology and history, with interventions such as Rhodes Must Fall and Why Is My Curriculum White? Yet, in fashion design courses the uptake has been slow and discourse has mainly focused on modules such as the history of fashion and cultural studies. Furthermore, in the discipline of fashion management it seems to be virtually non-existent as modules concerning sustainability, marketing and strategy continue to be void of alternative and balanced narratives. In particular, the current fashion management curriculum relies heavily on Western based positivist ideologies uniformly expressed through capitalist thinking from the Global North. For example, the works of Frederick Taylor, Peter Drucker, Michael Porter and Clayton Christensen all support competitive positions for profit maximisation. Presented as authoritative narratives, these texts will be the first contact for many learners, especially subalterns and ignores praxis from ‘other’, ‘exotic’ or ‘oriental’ parts of the world. Case in point, omitting or depreciating indigenous works from China (Han Fei Tsu), North Africa (Ibn-Khaldun), the Middle East (Ptahhotep) and important religious texts (Koran) and matters like slavery in explaining global management history and thought. Moreover, where there has been any interest there is a proclivity by Western scholars to focus on developing countries where the monolithic culture has a vested economic interest, for example in China and India, as opposed to peripheral countries like Africa and Iran. With higher education institutions keen to expand transnational education, promote widening participation, increase employability skills and reduce the attainment gap why aren’t they exploring decolonising the domain of fashion management for their ‘customers’ as a part of enquiry and values-based learning? What is the hold up?
References Higher Education Statistics Agency. (2020), Whose studying in HE?, https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/students/whos-in-he (Accessed 3rdJune 2020)
Ranjit Thind is a consultant and academic with over 20 years senior global product and brand management experience for well-known fashion brands. His current research focuses on decolonisation and knowledge transfer of the international fashion management curriculum in teaching, learning and assessment.
Ranjit is the author of Strategic Fashion Management: Concepts, Models and Strategies for Competitive Advantage published by Routledge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an alumnus of the London College of Fashion and Harvard Business School. Ranjit is based in London and can be contacted at – firstname.lastname@example.org