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Holding Oxford University accountable

SIMPLY THE BEST?: Oxford University

PROFESSOR RICHARDSON, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, revealed her delight that Oxford was named the best University on planet Earth for the second year running; at the annual oration at Convocation House in the Bodleian Library this week.

Professor Richardson’s pleasure at being at the helm of the world’s leading university is easy to understand, along with the Vice-Chancellor’s commitment to increase student access to Oxford University from the working classes.

However, two years ago, at an interview with the Vice-Chancellor Richardson, I specifically asked her how many full-time tenured academics, of African heritage, were employed by Oxford University. The answer at that time was less than five.

One of the secondary demands of the 2015 Oxford Rhodes Must Fall campaign; which was led by Oxford’s African heritage students, was the demand for the de-colonisation of Oxford University’s curriculum. Historic African people in Oxford’s curriculum are often marginalised, or they portrayed as white. A good example of this practice at Oxford is the African military leader Hannibal; who led a charge against Rome with elephants. Hannibal is rarely portrayed as a native African.

Additionally, the influential theologian St. Augustine of Hippo, is also mostly portrayed as white, with European features.

Oxford’s African heritage students questioned whether the academics of Oxford University could be trusted to de-colonise the curriculum, when both these universities are clearly resistant to offering academic employment to people of African heritage.

The presence of black academics at Oxford University, is unacceptably low for 'the world’s best university' and unrepresentative of the number of graduates of African descent.

When will Britain’s University create the equivalent professor Cornel West, the great African-American academic?

With the commencement of Oxford’s African History month events, the question that must be asked is whether it is acceptable that Oxford University should be given the accolade of being 'the world’s best' university, whilst employing so few academic staff of African heritage?

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