Oxford vice-chancellor 'delighted' at BLM debate - but Rhodes statue remains

11 June 2020, 10:12

Prof Richardson said the BLM debate is a 'critically important one'
Prof Richardson said the BLM debate is a 'critically important one'. Picture: PA

Oxford University's vice-chancellor has said she is "delighted" to see engagement in the Black Lives Matter debate as students continue to protest against a statue at one of its colleges.

Professor Louise Richardson said she thought the debate was "critically important" in encouraging people to discuss who we accept money from, our responsibilities, and how we judge people.

But she also argued they were "complex issues" that could take "decades" of debate and disagreements.

Her comments came on Wednesday amid a refocus on a long-running campaign to take down a controversial statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes at the university's Oriel College.

The statue of Cecil Rhodes sits at the front of Oxford's Oriel College
The statue of Cecil Rhodes sits at the front of Oxford's Oriel College. Picture: PA

Around 1,000 people gathered to protest the statue earlier in the week, and was inspired by recent events which have led to the ridding of a number of statues around the country of people with troubling pasts.

In Bristol, protesters toppled the statue of slaver Edward Colston, and tossed it into the nearby harbour.

City authorities managed to retrieve the memorial on Thursday morning, and said it would likely become part of a museum collection.

A statue of slaver Robert Milligan has also been removed from London Docklands.

READ MORE: Edward Colston statue removed from water and will form 'part of museum collection'

Speaking about the university's relationship with Rhodes, professor Richardson said the institution had "benefitted enormously" from the namesake scholarship.

She also noted the "slow and steady" progress made on diversifying its student body - which has long been criticised for its lack thereof.

"The number of BAME students for example has increased from 14.5% to 22.1% in five years," she said.

"The number of black students, admittedly from a low base, has gone up 100%."

Governors at Oriel College, on which the Rhodes statue sits, said the college "abhors racism and discrimination in all its forms" but that it would continue to "debate and discuss" the monument.