Cecil Rhodes statue to be removed from Oxford University after anti-racism protests

17 June 2020, 21:01

The statue of Cecil Rhodes outside Oriel College
The statue of Cecil Rhodes outside Oriel College. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Oxford University's Oriel College has recommended the removal of a controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes following criticism over his links with Britain’s colonial past.

The governing body of the College has "expressed their wish" to remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes.

It follows a five year "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign led by students to remove the statue, which pays tribute to the 19th century industrialist who donated a huge sum to the College in his will.

The campaign received renewed support as Black Lives Matter protests spread across the UK in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd.

The campaign argued the statue of Rhodes glorified racism, but the college had previously resisted calls to remove it

Demonstrations have recently taken place outside Oriel College calling for the statue to be removed from the High Street entrance of the building.

Carole Souter, the current master of St Cross College and former chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will chair an independent commission into the issue.

There have been protests outside the college
There have been protests outside the college. Picture: PA

In a statement, the governing body said: "The governing body of Oriel College has today voted to launch an independent commission of inquiry into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue.

"They also expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque. This is what they intend to convey to the independent commission of inquiry.

"Both of these decisions were reached after a thoughtful period of debate and reflection and with the full awareness of the impact these decisions are likely to have in Britain and around the world.

"The commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college's 21st-century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past."

The commission will produce a report for the governing body by the end of the year, the statement continued.

It went on: "The commission is intending to draw upon the greatest possible breadth and depth of experience, opinion and background.

"The inquiry will, in turn, invite submissions from a broad range of stakeholders from Oxford itself and the country as a whole; the students, representatives of Rhodes Must Fall and Oxford City Council, as well as alumni of Oxford and Oriel and citizens of the city. Written and oral evidence will be requested.

"It is intended that some oral evidence sessions will be held in public, with similar rules of engagement to that of a parliamentary select committee.

"By setting up this commission, Oriel governing body is demonstrating that it is willing to be guided by all its stakeholders.

"The governing body believes that this decision will allow a serious, appropriate and productive resolution of a complex series of issues."