Kehinde Andrews, writing in The Guardian, argues that “activists should be proud of campaigns such as Rhodes Must Fall, yet dissatisfied with how little the role of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean in British history is understood.”
He goes on to say that:
“Starting in the new academic year, history students at Oxford University will have to pass an exam on “non-British and non-European history” to complete their degree. The university has been quick to dismiss any connection between this move and the campaigns to decolonise academia that have swept across British universities in general and Oxford in particular. But make no mistake, this change is the fruit of Rhodes Must Fall, which sought to remove the legacy of colonialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford, and the wider Why is my curriculum white? campaign.
The news comes amid other developments, including the University of Leeds’ module on black British history and my own institution, Birmingham City University, launching Europe’s first undergraduate degree in black studies. Student campaigners should be proud of the momentum for change they have built up but also wary as institutions begin to respond.
The news from Oxford tells us the scale of the problems in the university system. The fact it has taken until the 21st century for history students at Oxford to be required to learn about events outside Europe is inexcusable. It provides further evidence of the limited education that students are receiving in universities across the country.
This is not just an Oxford problem – and it goes far beyond just the subject of history. As much as we should welcome the move, we should also question why so little has been done so very late. Scholars such as Hakim Adi (the only black professor of history in the country) have been working for years to create meaningful changes in the discipline.
One significant problem is that the compulsory exam separates out anything British or European from anything that is not white. Topics such as British Black Power, the Asian Youth Movements or even the African presence on the British Isles that dates back centuries will still be neglected.”
Dr Ramamurthy’s work has been cited as “work that will still be neglected” despite the efforts of a number of universities to decolonise their curriculum. There is long road ahead.
Read Dr Anandi Ramamurthy’s article on The politics of Britain’s Asian Youth Movements here.