Decolonising an engineering curriculum through a community-driven design project


  • Ashish Agrawal University of Cape Town
  • Hilton Heydenrych University of Cape Town
  • Genevieve Harding University of Cape Town



chemical engineering, community-driven design project, decolonisation, South Africa, undergraduate engineering curriculum


Following the student-led protests under the umbrellas of #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall, several South African universities made efforts to transform their curricula to make them more relevant to a diverse student population. To this end, the research site for this study, a research-focused historically English-language university, revamped an existing project done by second-year students in their undergraduate chemical engineering programme. This article presents the application of a decolonisation framework to the revised project. Details about the project implementation were collected in the form of the project brief and the six tasks given to students; and semi-structured interviews were conducted with one course lecturer and one tutor. These details were supplemented with inputs from two authors involved in the project design and delivery. The article demonstrates that an engineering design project can be decolonised by increasing its relevance to the local context, valuing student voices in project design, providing opportunities to students for critical reflection, critiquing the existing engineering knowledge, and designing the project to be community-driven. The article specifically highlights the inadequacy of the existing engineering techniques for application in small-scale community-level projects, thus underlining the need for a broadening of engineering knowledge.




How to Cite

Agrawal, A., Heydenrych, H., & Harding, G. (2022). Decolonising an engineering curriculum through a community-driven design project. Southern Journal of Engineering Education, 1(1), 39–60.