Free Events

Taking Up Space: Dismantling Hegemonies in UK Higher Education

9:30 am - 2:30 pm | 16 March 2020
Brunel University of London | FREE

UK universities are founded on and continue to centre white, classist, ableist, patriarchal and heteronormative spaces, institutions and narratives. Despite the growing trend to promote diversity, inequalities remain deeply entrenched in the structure and operation of higher education. It is a timely reminder to our sector, and to our academic community, that branding ourselves as ‘diverse’ does not absolve academic institutions from the inequalities they perpetuate and does not protect our peoples from the visible and invisible marginalisations they experience.

This half-day symposium wrestles with the urgent questions pertaining to the dismantling of hegemonies and redistribution of power in UK higher education, by examining the intellectual and practical project of ‘taking up space’.

Inspired by and responding to the powerful call by recent Cambridge University graduates Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi in their recent and hugely successful book Taking Up Space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change, this symposium centres the experiences of those students whose intersectional lived realities are constantly marginalised by universities.

The symposium will feature a keynote from Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi alongside performances, panels and practical workshops that examine crucial questions and processes to dismantle hegemonies in higher education. It will consider the role of students as central to this endeavour. It is designed to be attended by university senior management, undergraduate and postgraduate students, academic faculties and professional services staff. It will be of interest to anyone who believes that the university still has the potential to be the most radical space of possibility and change in society.

The symposium is funded by Brunel University London’s Student Success Project and follows on from last year’s successful and sold-out day-symposium ‘Decentring Diversity: Practising Anti-Racism in the Global University’.

We look forward to welcoming you to Brunel., Abigail Elliott, Serena Natile and Royona Mitra.


9.30 am: Registration (Artaud Foyer)

10 am: Welcome Notes and Spoken Word Performance (ANTR001)

10.15 am: Keynote I ‘Decolonisation is not a metaphor’ (Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang): Chelsea Kwakye introduced by Royona Mitra (ANTR001)

10.45 am: Theatre Student Performance with Intro from Theatre Students (ANTR001)

11 am: BREAK

11.15 am: Panel discussion on anti-oppressive strategies chaired by Abigail Elliott (ANTR101): Maxine Thomas-Asante, Fides Dagongdong, Chikelue Chike-Obuekwe, Lucia Jones, Christopher Ademuwagun, Seron Constance, Tejas Rawal

12.30: LUNCH (ANTR103 and ANTR101)

1.30 pm: EDI Toolkit Workshop by Danielle Russo & Henrietta Spalding (ANTR001)

2pm: Critical Reflections from Maxine and Tejas (ANTR001)

2.30 pm: Keynote II ‘Making Space: Leaving Legacies and Passing the Baton’: Ore Ogunbiyi introduced by Serena Natile (ANTR101)

3 pm: FINISH

KEYNOTE 1: Chelsea Kwakye

TITLE: “Decolonisation is not a metaphor“ (Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang)

It’s time to go back to basics. Based on a seminal essay authored by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, we are reminded that calls to dismantle and decolonise often miss the point entirely. The word ‘decolonisation’ has been superficially used in educational policies, ‘critical methodologies’ and even in reference to the criminal justice system. However, through the phrase Taking Up Space, we can begin to understand the complex and contradictory spaces we inhabit and begin to discuss the possibilities of dismantling the institution.


Chelsea Kwakye is a British-Ghanaian History graduate from Homerton College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge she was the only black girl in her year group of around 200 people studying History. During her time at university, she was Homerton’s BME officer and Vice-President of the African-Caribbean Society.

She is currently studying at the University of Law in preparation for a training contract with a city law firm in London.

KEYNOTE 2: Ọrẹ Ogunbiyi

TITLE: “Making Space: Leaving Legacies and Passing the Baton”

Very often, we’re asked ‘What’s next for you both?’ ‘Another book maybe?’ and all sorts of similar questions. But for us, Taking Up Space was just as much about making our own voices heard as it was about elevating the voices of other black women and non-binary students who have been excluded from these spaces and conversations for so long. Acknowledging that we have done our bit, and throwing down the ladder for others to come after us is imperative for making sure that this conversation doesn’t end with us. If not, what’s the point?


Ore Ogunbiyi is a Nigerian-British Politics and International Relations graduate from Jesus College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge she pioneered the Benin Bronze Repatriation campaign, the #BlackMenofCambridgeUniversity campaign and was President of the African-Caribbean Society.



She has since completed a Masters in Journalism at Columbia University, New York and is currently working as a Special Assistant and Speechwriter to the Vice President of Nigeria.


For more information visit Taking Up Space

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.