In the curriculum

As members of the community of Commonwealth universities, we provide opportunities in the curriculum to foster mutual understanding and respect. Incorporating modules that promote an empathetic understanding of other traditions in the curriculum is essential in the university's quest to create well-rounded global citizens.

How are universities around the Commonwealth using the curriculum as a tool to nurture respect?

Promoting the transformational benefits of being curious about other cultures
Claire O'Leary, Assistant Director - Global Engagement (Head of Student Experience), University of Warwick, UK

We are proud of the University of Warwick’s diverse student body: 38% of our students come from outside the UK. We promote the transformational benefits of being curious about other cultures amongst students and during their time at Warwick and we deliver an intercultural training programme called ’Go Global’. The training programme teaches new skills (observation, analytical and reflection) which helps students to deal with cultural differences, to avoid stereotyping and we focus on recognising and stretching one's cultural comfort zones.

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Using literature to confront issues of radicalisation and islamophobia
Naseem Aumeerally, Senior Lecturer in English Studies, University of Mauritius

I teach a final year module entitled 'Reading Islam in Literature and Popular Culture' on the BA English programme. I designed this module with the view of encouraging students to engage intellectually with popular discourses on Muslims which have dominated and continue to be circulated in the public sphere. By providing historical and theoretical perspectives on the representations of Muslims as constructed in literary texts and art from the 19th century, the module gives students an exposure to complex and contradictory maps of Muslim lives as viewed by Europeans and which constitute the framework through which contemporary renditions of Muslim experiences continue to be viewed.

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Embedding understanding of faith and diversity in health programmes
Adrian Lui, Equality and Diversity Advisor, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK

The Department of Psychology, Social Work and Allied Health Science has integrated understanding of faith and broader culture and diversity across its programmes, in support of the student learning experience as well as meeting the requirements of professional values and codes of conduct.

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Introducing courses to teach students to respect themselves and each other
Prof Kanthi K.A.S. Yapa, Department of Physics, University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka

The Faculty of Science launched two course units for undergraduate students in 2016, to help promote mutual respect and understanding among students, staff and the local community. ‘Active Citizenship’ and ‘Active Citizenship Community Project’ were introduced after several academics from the University of Ruhuna trained as facilitators through the British Council Active Citizen programme.

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Enhancing cultural understanding through a course in regional studies
Dr Ghazala Rahman Rafiq, Director of the Sindh Abhyas Academy, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Pakistan

I teach a course titled Sindh Studies to undergraduates in the social science faculty. Each year around 100 students (Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Sikh) learn about Sindh's ancient tradition of celebrating plurality, inclusiveness, non-violence, and reverence and love for all of life. In an atmosphere of religious, ethnic, linguistic and other types of discrimination, this course – created five years ago – is extremely popular among students and is said to be ‘life-changing’ in their evaluations.

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Using technology to facilitate intercultural relationships
Anna Dukes, International Development Manager, International & Partnerships Office, Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK

Cardiff Metropolitan University (Cardiff Met) is a global university rooted in Wales providing education to students from over 140 different countries. The university is committed to nurturing graduates with intercultural competencies who, as global citizens, are fully equipped to respond creatively to the challenges of a fast-changing, complex global workforce.

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Our Community Service Learning course promotes interfaith awareness
Dr Syed Shah, Associate Professor, National University of Sciences and Technology, Pakistan

Our university specialises in science and technology and as such does not provide courses dedicated to religion. However, we have several courses which address interfaith respect and understanding, including a course I designed in 2012: Community Service Learning (CSL-401). This was conceived as part of a wider initiative known as the Community Service Club, which was launched in 2010 with the mission to involve university students in activities that prove vital for the betterment of the society. The course was initially optional, but was made compulsory for fourth-year undergraduate students in 2013. It is still available to postgraduate and PhD students on a voluntary basis.

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Teaching contemporary social issues
Patience Masua, undergraduate student, University of Namibia, Namibia

The University of Namibia has many initiatives already in place that help to promote respect and understanding. However, they recently decided to take a more deliberate approach by introducing Contemporary Social Issues (CSI) as a compulsory subject that all students must take in their first year. CSI covers topics such as ethics, morals and democracy to encourage robust engagement and research on contemporary related issues. In addition, as part of the CSI curriculum, students have to do a field project, in which they must take the values and principles learnt in the classroom, and put them into practise. The university values are designed to promote respect amongst students and staff, values which are taken outside the university and adopted as general life principles.

Mainstreaming international humanitarian law across the university
Dr Ahmad Kawesa Sengendo, Rector, Islamic University in Uganda

Our mission as an institution is to function as an academic and cultural institution based on Islam and love for humanity. One of the ways we do this is through the mainstreaming of international humanitarian law (IHL, a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict) across various programmes in the university:

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Offering an online course to staff and students to improve religious literacy
Dr Mark Owen, Director for the Winchester Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peace, University of Winchester, UK

As an institution, our viewpoint is that we can’t embed religious literacy into all curricula – we offer a range of subjects and it would be wrong to force it upon students. But we also feel it is the responsibility of the institution to give all students, regardless of their course, the opportunity to learn about religion and understand the world we live in.

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Giving students and professionals tools to help manage their reactions to unexpected encounters
Prof Helen Spencer-Oatey, Director, Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, UK

Everyone is likely to experience unexpected or uncomfortable encounters. These can give rise to a range of negative emotions – anger, frustration – which can in turn lead to negative evaluations of others, such as ‘s/he was very rude’. Such reactions are dangerous because, if they are ignored, they encourage stereotyping and undermine tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. To avoid such problems, they need to be worked through systematically, both from an emotional point of view as well as from a cognitive point of view. At the University of Warwick we have developed a small tool to help facilitate this. We have called it the 3R tool because of its three components: Report, Reflect, and Re-evaluate.

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Compulsory comparative religions course promotes understanding
Prof Emmanuel Mbennah, Vice-Chancellor, St John’s University of Tanzania

We have a compulsory comparative religions course for all students in graduate programmes. ‘Introduction to World Religion’ is a cross-cutting course which exposes students to the beliefs, historical backgrounds, and tenets of faith of the major religions of the world (including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, African traditional religions). The course lasts a full semester involving three hours of study a week for 16 weeks.

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Building understanding through technology enhanced learning
Prof Sebastian Kim, Chair in Theology and Public Life/University Head of Research, York St John University, UK

A collaborative interactive project based on the medium of technology has been set up between York St John University (YSJU) and Kaye Academic College of Higher Education (KACHE) Be’er – Sheva Israel. Students from YSJU studying on our Judaism and Islam modules engage with either Israeli Jewish or Israeli Muslim students at KACHE who are studying to be teachers and taking English language study.

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Embedding interculturalism in the curriculum
Dr Catriona Cunningham, Academic Development Partner, University of Stirling, UK

I am leading an Embedding Equality and Diversity in the Curriculum (EEDC) project that came from a successful bid to the Higher Education Academy to participate in their Scotland-wide Strategic Programme 2016-17. Through this we aim to embed interculturalism in the curriculum in our Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

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Religions and interfaith issues in the Faculty of Theology
Dr Len Hansen, Director of NETACT and Chair of the research committee, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

The Missiology and Science of Religion programmes integrate different contents of religions in Africa (Christianity, African Traditional Religions, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism) across two main undergraduate modules: Missiology 244 (Religions in Africa and Ecumenism, 16 credits) and 442 (Trends in Missiology and Science of Religions, 16 credits). The programme focuses on theologies, religions and practices in contexts of interreligious (interfaith) and interdenominational diversity and encounters, particularly in Africa. For the past 21 years, changes in the cultural and religious demographic profile of South African communities have provided spaces inside and outside the classrooms within which students can encounter and engage individuals and groups from different cultural and faith backgrounds.

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Faith awareness course
Rev Sally Hitchiner, Coordinating Chaplain, Brunel University, UK

We have initiated two faith awareness courses that are aimed at both students and staff. Each course takes an hour each week and lasts for 6 weeks, and is intended to be done during a lunch break. Each week we have a qualified representative from each of the 5 main world religions to present for 30 minutes and to give a brief introduction on their belief and practices. There is then a 30 minute question and answer session with the presenter. The last session is an opportunity for the participants to reflect on all the different world faiths and to think about how they feel about the content. Once they have successfully completed the course, there is a presentation of certificates.

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Peace and interfaith studies
Associate Prof (Dr) Mohammad Issack Santally, Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Mauritius

The university has launched a new course on Peace and Inter-religious Studies, with the collaboration of the Council of Religions of the country with the objective of enabling preachers and practitioners of different faiths in Mauritius to learn about the faith of other members of the community. This will help them to better understand and appreciate the religions of others, and thereby better preach their own religion. Since Mauritius is a multi-religious country, it is very important that our preachers do not trample over the toes of their neighbors, but with better understanding, have a broader view of their own practices. It is hoped that the course will be extended as a General Elective Module for students next year.

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