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Oxford University to keep Cecil Rhodes statue despite recommendation to remove it

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By Euronews
A statue of Cecil Rhodes, a controversial Victorian imperialist, stands mounted on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, England, June 17, 2020.
A statue of Cecil Rhodes, a controversial Victorian imperialist, stands mounted on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, England, June 17, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Matt Dunham
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An independent commission has recommended a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes be removed from the grounds of an Oxford University college.

Oxford's Oriel College has however said it will not be removed due to the costs it would incur.

The commission was set up last year to examine the memorials and legacy of Cecil Rhodes as calls around the UK grew to remove statues of controversial historical statues following anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US.

Oriel College recommended then that the statue be removed.

The commission backed the proposal by Oriel College's Governing Body to remove the statue in its report released Thursday.

But in a statement, Oriel College said that "in light of the considerable obstacles to removal, Oriel's Governing Body has decided not to begin the legal process for relocation of the memorials."

The statue is situated on a Grade II listed building and its removal would be subject to legal and planning processes involving the City Council, Historic England, and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Governing Body said.

"Instead, it is determined to focus its time and resources on delivering the report's recommendation around the contextualisation of the College's relationship with Rhodes, as well as improving educational equality, diversity and inclusion amongst its student cohort and academic community," it added.

It announced that it is creating a task force to consider the report's recommendation and to oversee their implementations and develop a strategic plan for improving educational equality, diversity and inclusion.

Other actions it is taking include fundraising for scholarships to support students from South Africa; hold an annual lecture on a topic related to the Rhodes legacy, race, or colonialism; institute an annual student prize on a topic related to Rhodes legacy, race, or colonialism; and introduce further outreach initiatives targeted at BAME student recruitment.

Rhodes was a British mining magnate who served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896 and founded Rhodesia — a southern African region he named after himself.

He was an ardent supporter of British imperialism and is considered one of the main architects of segregation in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

He was a student at Oriel and gave £100,000 to the College in his will, which today amounts to about £12 million (€13.9 million).