Oxford University to teach that imperial measurements are ‘tied to the idea of Empire’


Oxford University reportedly plans to teach that imperial measurements are ‘tied deeply to the idea of the Empire’ in a bid to make science courses less ‘Eurocentric’.

The University has suggested imperial measurements, including the mile, inch, pound and ounce, should be ‘decolonised’ due to its links to the British Empire.

Decolonising plans by Oxford’s maths, physics and life sciences departments suggest the teaching of the measurements in the curriculum may change, according to The Telegraph.

It comes after a pledge from Oxford’s vice-chancellor Louise Richardson to embed teaching on colonialism and the Empire into courses and ‘diversify’ the maths and life sciences curriculum.

Oxford University reportedly plans to teach that imperial measurements are ‘tied deeply to the idea of the Empire’ in a bid to make science courses less ‘Eurocentric’ (stock image)

Undergraduates and scholars will reportedly conduct research this summer to determine how Oxford’s science teaching can be made less ‘Eurocentric’, before drawing up proposals for lecturers to apply recommendations to the syllabuses.

The plans support a ‘cultural shift’ in teaching and hope to see Oxford students’ learn and understand the ‘global historical and social context to scientific research’.

The eight-week decolonising project is said to be considering a new curriculum on the ‘history of modern measurement’ and its ‘ties’ to ‘Empire and Imperial standardisation’.

While imperial measurements, including weight, length and volume, could also be given historical context in Oxford University’s physics curriculum. 

The British imperial system was introduced in the 1824 British Weights and Measures Act and were widely adopted as the traditional system of weights and measurements by 1826 – prior to the adoption of the metric system in 1965.

An Oxford spokesman told The Telegraph: ‘The university supports the diversifying STEM curriculum project, which is looking at how curricula might change to acknowledge questions of diversity and colonialism.

‘We value the input of students into this work; all recommendations arising from the project will be referred to departments to consider next steps.’

MailOnline has contacted Oxford University for comment.

The decolonising project is considering a curriculum on the 'history of modern measurement' and its 'ties' to 'Empire and Imperial standardisation'. Pictured: Aerial view of Oxford University

The decolonising project is considering a curriculum on the ‘history of modern measurement’ and its ‘ties’ to ‘Empire and Imperial standardisation’. Pictured: Aerial view of Oxford University

Following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, Oxford University vowed to ensure its degrees educated pupils on colonialism.

A letter, signed by 35 college principals last June, said: ‘The university has, as Britain does, a history that is marked by colonialism and imperialism. The recent protests have also brought a renewed focus on this era of Oxford’s history.’ 

The mathematical, physical and life sciences faculties were also given grants to help them increase diversity in their syllabuses.

Professor Richardson said in a letter to the university’s student union: ‘Many departments in social sciences have begun work on making their curriculum more inclusive and adding diverse voices to it. 

‘This includes steps such as integrating race and gender questions into topics, embedding teaching on colonialism and empire into courses, changing reading lists to ensure substantial representation of a diverse range of voices, and ensuring better coverage of issues concerning the global South in syllabuses.’ 

Protesters at the university last year called for a statue of Cecil John Rhodes, a mining magnate and former Prime Minister of South Africa’s Cape Colony, to be torn down.

The imperialist leader is divisive due to some seeing him as a racist and complicit in paving the way for apartheid in South Africa. 

But in February, it was reported that the controversial monument may be allowed to remain at Oxford University – in a compromise deal which will see him joined by a black philosopher.

Governors at Oriel College said last year they wanted to remove the statue, after a long-running campaign was given a boost by widespread Black Lives Matter protests. 

However, they fear the move might now be blocked by new laws protecting historic monuments.

The legislation – which follows the toppling of slave trader Edward Colston’s statue by protesters in Bristol last summer – will mean full planning permission is required before any historic monuments can be removed. 

It comes after Oxford University vowed to ensure it educated pupils on colonialism after protesters last year called for a statue of Cecil John Rhodes (pictured) to be torn down

It comes after Oxford University vowed to ensure it educated pupils on colonialism after protesters last year called for a statue of Cecil John Rhodes (pictured) to be torn down

An independent commission set up to examine the legacy of Rhodes is said to be considering a new tribute to the first African-American to win a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford as a concession.

Alain LeRoy Locke is viewed as the ‘father of the Harlem Renaissance’, a cultural movement in the 1920s and 1930s that championed black intellectual and artistic production.

He was denied entry to several Oxford colleges because of racial prejudice before eventually being admitted to Hertford College in 1907 under the Rhodes scheme.

The scholarship was set up in 1902 through Rhodes’s will to enable ‘outstanding young people from around the world’ to study at Oxford.

However, the mining magnate, who founded Rhodesia in southern Africa, is a controversial figure who believed in white supremacy.

Sources told the Daily Mail that officials are believed to be looking at commemorating Mr Locke.

Another option the commission is said to be exploring is the possibility of relocating the Rhodes statue to Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum.

Elsewhere, The Queen’s Speech has now unveiled a new bill threatening institutions and student unions in England and Wales with fines if they bar controversial guests. 

The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill aims to end ‘no-platforming’ on campuses by giving a regulator the power to issue fines.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk