Oxford has introduced a compulsory exam on ethnic minority history to diversify its overly ‘white’ curriculum
They’ll study the lives of people like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi
Starting next term, Oxford History students are to study the paper which features black Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian events, such as the 1960s civil rights movement and Indian independence. They might also study the lives of world leaders and influential people such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. This is the first time that undergraduates will be made to study a topic outside of British or European history.
Oxford has come under fire recently for not recruiting enough black students, including by David Cameron, who when prime minister criticised Oxford for taking on just 27 black students in 2014. More recently there was an uproar when it emerged that the undergraduate prize for best thesis in British history was £500, while the equivalent prize for African history was only £75, although the history faculty has since announced that they will contribute money to the African prize to make it more equal.
Thousands of people also campaigned to remove the statue of the “racist colonialist” Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College as part of the student-led Rhodes Must Fall campaign, although the statue still remains.
However, an Oxford University spokesman said there was “no link” between the Rhodes Must Fall campaign and the new history curriculum, as, he said, this addition to the course had been planned for four years.
In a statement, the Oxford History Faculty said that it “regularly reviews and updates its course curriculum to reflect the latest developments in the subject.
“After a number of years of discussion and consultation among ourselves and with students, we have decided to make a number of changes to the curriculum.
“Among these is a requirement that students study one paper (from a wide range of such options) in non-British and non-European history, alongside two papers of British History and two papers of European History.”
“We are pleased to be modernising and diversifying our curriculum in this way,” they added.
Some critics have said that this new paper will not do much to help the lack of female and ethnic minority representation in Oxford, but the move has generally been welcomed by both students and tutors.
However, Niall Ferguson, a former Oxford professor who is now at the Hoover Institution in America, told The Times: “By comparison with America, some history courses here do look a bit old-fashioned.
“I am not the kind of backwoodsman who thinks Oxford should only teach English history and general history, which is what it did when I was an undergraduate, but let us be careful not to stop teaching crucial subjects like the rise of the West or the world wars in the effort to make courses more diverse.”