Decolonising a higher education system which has never been colonised’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The notion of decolonisation implies the existence of a territory, entity, structure, or system which has previously been colonised by exogenous forces and thus needs to be liberated. In most African countries, the discourses of decolonisation of higher education emanate from the shared experience of imposed European colonisation that perpetuated epistemic violence on African indigenous knowledge systems. Thus, a lived experience of colonialism became a foundation for the decolonisation debates imagining and aspiring to alternative and inclusive futures. This point of departure yet makes the discussion of decolonisation as the subject of only those who have had colonial experiences–an event of interruption of a specific process considered colonial and therefore, undesirable. This approach conceptualises decolonisation in a narrow sense as a linear process with a distinct historical beginning, which is colonial, and an envisaged liberating decolonial end. This article critically challenges this dominant narrative of decolonisation and reconceptualises it as a complex, dynamic, and lifelong process of re-centring. It argues that decolonisation, as a concept in higher education, goes beyond a pre-existing colonial foundation. Taking the context of Ethiopia, a country that remained independent during the European colonisation of Africa, this article aims at reconceptualising the notion of decolonisation of higher education in a space that has never been colonised. The article discusses epistemological challenges of the Ethiopian higher education system and provides a proactive alternative future departing from monolithic epistemic tradition to a pluralistic approach that accommodates diverse structures of knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)894-906
Number of pages13
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Decolonisation
  • Ethiopia
  • higher education
  • indigenous knowledge systems
  • pluralistic approach
  • re-centring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Decolonising a higher education system which has never been colonised’'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this