Minister rejects pulling down Rhodes statue

The universities minister has rejected calls to remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes from an Oxford University college.

Michelle Donelan said it would be “short sighted” to try to “rewrite our history”.

Campaigners have called for the statue to be taken down – saying it was a symbol of colonialism and racism.

But the minister told an online conference: “We should not seek to censor or edit our past.”

“I want to be really clear that racism is abhorrent and shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere in our society, and that includes universities,” she told a Higher Education Policy Institute event.

But Ms Donelan said she was opposed to the renaming of buildings named after the 19th Century statesman, William Gladstone, or the removal of the Rhodes statue.

The statue in Oxford of the Victorian colonialist is outside Oriel College – and its governing body is meeting on Wednesday.

A statement from Oriel College said the governors were “fully aware of their responsibilities regarding the Rhodes statue, its heritage and the wider issues under discussion”.

Protesters in Oxford have called for the statue to be taken down, saying that it represented imperialist values that were no longer acceptable.

Last week, the vice chancellor of Oxford University, Louise Richardson, warned against “hiding” history, rather than confronting the values held by people in the past.

The decision on the fate of the statue will be made by the college rather than the university.

But Prof Richardson said she regretted that a plaque putting Rhodes statue into its historical context had not been added as had previously been proposed.

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