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Open Letter to the University of Chichester (Vice Chancellor's Office)

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Professor Jane Longmore

Vice Chancellor

University of Chichester,

College Lane,


West Sussex, PO19 6PE

Subject: Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora post 'at risk'

Dear Professor Longmore,

We are writing following the news that Professor Hakim Adi’s post is at risk of termination and that all recruitment to the unique Masters by Research (MRes), History of Africa and the African Diaspora has been suspended.

Alarmingly, overnight the University of Chichester has shut down an entire course. Notably, a comparable course is not offered by this or any other university in the UK. With this imposition, the University is threatening Professor Adi (the first and only Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora in Britain) with redundancy.

Professor Hakim Adi is a scholar who has dedicated his professional career and life to African history and activism. As the first African-British historian to become a professor of history in Britain, he has pioneered the way for successive historians from similar backgrounds and underrepresented communities. He has worked relentlessly at the University of Chichester for over a decade, using his expertise to found and teach a course in this underrepresented area and to promote the inclusion of these histories in the wider educational curriculum. The University’s action comes as a complete shock to not only his students (current and former), but the wider community of historians, activists, teachers and countless advocates of an inclusive history, which necessarily embraces the History of Africa and the African Diaspora. We all understand the inherent value of this course to both your institution and to the wider society to which we belong.

To reiterate, the university took this action- suspending enrollment of new students in next year's intake, without consultation with Professor Adi. This top-down decision comes at a time when we can readily observe how higher education is being weaponised to pander to market forces. The marketisation of universities and shoehorning subjects into the sole outcome of generating income for universities is unequivocally immoral and unethical.

As you will be aware, the idea for the MRes emerged as a recommendation from the History Matters conference in 2015, as did the Young Historians Project. At that time, the conference and broader History Matters initiative were supported by the university. The MRes was initially mainly intended to train mature students of African and Caribbean heritage as historians. Since then, it has:

  1. attracted students from Africa, the Caribbean, North America, and Hong Kong as well as many from Britain;

  2. produced seven MRes students who have gone on to undertake studies at PhD level, six of them at the University of Chichester. Only recently Claudia Tomlinson successfully became the first MRes graduate to receive her PhD at the University of Chichester, a great achievement for her and for the MRes;

  3. trained students to undertake research focusing on the underrepresented history of African and Caribbean people in Britain;

  4. facilitated through its alumni the founding of the Open Access , History Matters Journal with contributions from dozens of historians, many from African and Caribbean backgrounds.

The rationale of the University of Chichester appears to be based on the premise that the MRes in the History of Africa and the African Diaspora does not recruit enough students to financially justify the continued existence of Professor Adi’s post. No account appears to have been taken of the fact that the university has not adequately marketed the MRes. Furthermore, Professor Adi’s employment preceded the development of the MRes and therefore should not be associated with one course. In addition, no account appears to have been taken of the recruitment of PhD students Professor Adi supervises, nor the fact that many have been recruited directly from the MRes. Finally, the university has never before expressed dissatisfaction with recruitment.

We demand answers about the lack of transparency in this process. We want to know why students, staff, and chiefly Professor Adi, were not consulted and the decision was taken out of their hands. It needs to be explained why the University has not deployed its full resources to market the course. Had this been addressed, it would have contributed to increased recruitment levels to the MRes.

Finally, we come together as members of the Black community, research community and community of students, academics, teachers and practitioners to condemn this action and demand the reversal of such a momentous and unjustifiable decision.

Former and current student testimonies:

“As an adjunct professor of African history in New York City I have found the MRes in History of Africa and the African Diaspora to be extremely helpful in preparing me for doctoral study. Professor Adi’s knowledge, ability to convey complex historical topics, and instruction of how to properly conduct scholarly research is unparalleled. There are thousands of people similar to me in the United States alone who would enroll in the program if it was properly promoted. Rather than ending this exemplary and unique offering, the University of Chichester should celebrate the program’s milestones and engage its current and former students to strengthen its outreach."

  • Jabari Osaze

“Widening the scope of Black history study helps to unravel and unlearn many racial stereotypes and embraces all histories in Britain. The MRes in the History of Africa and the African Diaspora course addresses this issue at a postgraduate level and from my own experience it redefines the conception of Britishness and includes Black history as a body of legitimate knowledge.

As a qualified postgraduate, I would not have pursued undertaking my PhD, had it not been my learning experience that inspired this. In addition, knowing that my supervisor Hakim Adi would aid my progression in ensuring that I meet all academic requirements, but also accept my writings without being penalised, if it does not fit within the history prescribed to us, within the British curriculum. I am excited about my research for my PhD as the subject is so stimulating. This would not have happened without my MRes training.”

  • Marlene Worrell

“The quality of instruction from Professor Adi's detailed knowledge and commitment to his students to the careful array of topics, makes this course standout. Through this MRes I gained breadth

and focus in my research skills and the result has been to bolster my ability to conduct novel research into the history of the African diaspora in Britain- an area that remains inaccurately presented and underrepresented at the mainstream level.

  • Aleja Taddesse

To demonstrate the widely felt outrage at the University of Chichester’s decisions, and encourage the institution to remember their previous commitment to expanding opportunities for the study of the History of Africa and its Diaspora, and the production of more historians from underrepresented backgrounds, we have created a petition.

Signed, in solidarity with Professor Hakim Adi and students of the MRes in the History of Africa and the African Diaspora,

History Matters

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