Oxford University has given in to activist demands to force its students to study black history – but protesters still aren’t happy with the result.
The prestigious institution made the change this year, and will launch the compulsory modules for all its history students this autumn.
But campaigners say the change doesn’t go far enough, and claims Oxford is still minimizing the importance of non-white history.
Oxford University, which recently came under fire for suggesting it’s “racist” to avoid eye contact, was the target of a “Why is my curriculum white?” campaign.
It was partly prompted by the college’s refusal to remove a statue of the Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes because of his colonial links (anti-Rhodes protesters are pictured above).
The university’s decision sparked a campus-wide movement called “Rhodes Must Fall” demanding to move the curriculum away from its “Eurocentric” bias, in addition to removing the statue.
The campaign eventually paid off: from this fall, every Oxford history undergraduate will partake in a compulsory exam that doesn’t cover British or European topics, according to The Times.
While the exact topics are yet to be seen, potential themes of the exam include the 1960s civil rights movement and Indian independence, highlighting historical figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Mahatma Gandhi.
Head of history faculty Martin Conway said “diversity” was the reason behind the change in curriculum. He added that “quite a few” Oxford history students participated in the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign, but denied the new exam wasn’t a response to the protests.
Despite forcing the university to amend its teaching subjects, the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement slammed the compulsory exam, claiming it doesn’t go far enough.
“There is no new course and the global history module which is now being made compulsory on non European history includes topics such as Jefferson’s America (the history of European settler colonialism outside of Europe)” wrote the activists on Facebook.
“The step is in the right direction but the ways that it has been exaggerated have given good press to an institution which still does not deserve any good press at all.
“There is still an overwhelmingly white academic body whose research interests gather around a very narrow and eurocentric worldview. Last year the African Studies department was 100% white and the English police department was not far behind.”
The “Rhodes Must Fall” also accused the press for sensationalizing a “small concession” made by the university. “To describe the small concessions given as a compulsory new exam on ethnic minority history specifically … is disingenuous sensationalism.”