The governing body of Oxford University’s Oriel College has voted to remove the controversial statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes.
A statement by Oriel College on Wednesday said its governing body had also voted in favour of launching an independent inquiry into the monument.
The college said it had “expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque” to the commission.
While the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign to remove the monument was first launched in 2016, there have been renewed calls in recent weeks as the Black Lives Matter movement has gained support in the UK.
Rhodes was a Victorian imperialist regarded as one of the main proponents of white colonial domination.
He was the founder of the southern African colony Rhodesia, modern day Zimbabwe, which was named after him in 1895.
Carole Souter, the current master of St Cross College and former chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will chair an independent commission into the issue.
In a statement, the governing body said: “The governing body of Oriel College has today voted to launch an independent commission of inquiry into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue.
“They also expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque. This is what they intend to convey to the independent commission of inquiry.
“Both of these decisions were reached after a thoughtful period of debate and reflection and with the full awareness of the impact these decisions are likely to have in Britain and around the world.
“The commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college’s 21st-century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past.
The group Rhodes Must Fall welcomed the statement but said they demanded a “commitment” to remove the Rhodes statue.
The group said in a statement: “However, we have been down this route before, where Oriel College has committed to taking a certain action, but has not followed through: notably, in 2015, when the college committed to engaging in a six-month-long democratic listening exercise.
“Therefore, while we remain hopeful, our optimism is cautious. While the governing body of Oriel College have ‘expressed their wish’ to take down the statue, we continue to demand their commitment.”
The group added: “Until such time as the Rhodes statue ceases to adorn the facade of Oriel College on Oxford’s High Street, we will continue to galvanise the goodwill and energy seen across the university, particularly among an astonishingly wide variety of academics.”
The statement concluded: “This is a potentially epoch-defining moment for our institution, the University of Oxford. We can, potentially, offer a powerful example of the decolonial project in higher education in the UK and beyond.”