The University of Oxford has been criticised a lot for not upgrading its curriculum, which is highly influenced by the history of colonialism and imperialism. So, one of the world’s oldest universities has decided to change its history curriculum.
University authorities recently announced that the history of India’s freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement and the history of Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights movement would be introduced in the curriculum for three-year graduation course in next semester or Autumn Semester.
There is a history behind the university’s decision to change its age-old curriculum. A protest movement, called ‘Why Is My Curriculum White’, has been going on at various British universities, including Oxford, for the last few years. In April 2016, Oxford University’s Oriel College refused to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes. For the protesters, the statue represented everything that Rhodes himself stood for: racism, colonialism, plunder, white supremacy and the oppression of black people. Protesters also raised the important question: ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ They made clear that the curriculum should not be dominated only by the history of colonialism and imperialism, and started the ‘Rhodes must fall’ movement. The movement prompted university authorities to remove Rhodes’ statue in May. The same movement also influenced the Oxford authorities to change the curriculum.
However, Professor of contemporary European history and Chair of the history faculty at the university Dr Martin Conway said that they made such a decision only to bring diversity in the curriculum.
For her part, senior Lecturer (History of Africa) at SOAS University of London Marie Rodet said that the decision was overdue. “It is about time, honestly. It is important that the papers should not just focus on a western perspective of non-British, non-European history, but look at the richness and diversity of other cultures’ history in their own right,” she told the media.
Rodet stressed: “Until recently, the empire was never put into question. It is finally time that movements, like ‘Rhodes must fall’, get to the UK and there is a bit more self-reflection on those issues. I would say it is a good sign that it comes finally to this point, but it is not the way it will solve all those issues just to say ‘we’re done with that we introduced this’. It is about the content of the course that is important.”
Other British universities, too, have started thinking about changing their history curriculum. The University of Leeds is all set to include the history of black movement. “We welcome all kinds of suggestions to bring variations in the curriculum,” said a senior spokesperson of the university.