Indian, non-white history now compulsory at Oxford University | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Indian, non-white history now compulsory at Oxford University

A change in the history curriculum at Oxford University has made it mandatory for students to study Indian and other non-British and non-European history.

world Updated: May 31, 2017 19:13 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
File photo of University of Oxford, where a change in the history curriculum has made it mandatory for students to study Indian and other non-European history.
File photo of University of Oxford, where a change in the history curriculum has made it mandatory for students to study Indian and other non-European history.(Courtesy www.ox.ac.uk)

A change in the history curriculum is making it mandatory for students at the University of Oxford to study Indian and other non-British and non-European history, amid growing claims that the teaching of philosophy and history in UK varsities is “too white”. 

A recent campaign to remove the statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) from the Oriel College’s High Street frontage made much news last year, while students at the School of Oriental and African Studies want a curriculum free of “white” Aristotle, Kant and Plato. 

An Oxford spokesperson told Hindustan Times that the change in history was not a response to the Rhodes or any other campaign, but part of a continuing review of curriculum. Oxford has a long record of research into colonial and Indian history. 

It will now be a requirement, rather than an option, for students to take a paper on non-British and non-European history as part of the change that has attracted much attention in British media, with reports linking it to the campaigns to de-colonise the curriculum.

 The spokesperson said: “This is not a new paper; it is a new requirement that students take at least one non-British or non-European paper from among the existing options. And to re-emphasise, contrary to what some in the media have suggested, this is a university-led initiative and not a response to any kind of campaign or pressure.

“In particular, it was not a response to last year's Rhodes Must Fall campaign. In fact, the curriculum review began a couple of years before the campaign had even formed at Oxford.”

As academics at other universities debated the change at Oxford, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign group said the change did not go far enough, and that the real question is why non-European history did not become compulsory at the university until 2017.

A statement to Hindustan Times from Oxford’s faculty of history said: “The faculty 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.”

It added, “Students take eleven papers in total during their history degree, and many of our students already take at least one paper of non-European/British history. We are pleased to be modernising and diversifying our curriculum in this way.”