'Intensely white': psychology curricula and the (re)production of racism

Sarah Gillborn*, Helen Woolnough, Glen Jankowski, Rowan Sandle

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Psychology has witnessed an upsurge in discussions around institutional racism as a response to global anti-racist activism following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by a police officer in Minneapolis, USA. Within academic institutions, students have been challenging institutional racism for years, highlighting how the whiteness of curricula serves to uphold systems of racial injustice. Such calls are often met with denial and sometimes active backlash. Nevertheless, further reflection is crucial if universities and accrediting bodies endorsing educational and professional courses seek meaningful systemic change. Informed by Critical Race Theory, this study uses original empirical data to uncover how students of colour experience psychology curricula by conducting six face-to-face focus groups with 22 undergraduate and postgraduate students of colour on psychology courses at a UK university. Results from reflexive thematic analysis reveal, first, how the psychology curricula are marked by knowledges that (re)produce racism; second, how students are calling for change; and finally, confusion over where responsibility for change lies. We argue that this analysis has important implications for the perpetuation of institutional racism within psychology, academia in general, and subsequent professional psychological practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)813-832
    Number of pages20
    JournalEducational Review
    Issue number5
    Early online date12 Oct 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2023

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 Educational Review.


    • Race
    • psychology
    • higher education
    • curriculum
    • critical race theory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education


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