Updated: Jul 25
Professor Hakim Adi Campaign: Report
For: w/c Monday 24th July (on the campaign so far)
The University of Chichester has suspended all recruitment to the MRes in the History of Africa and the African Diaspora, threatening the course’s continuation and the role of the course leader Professor Hakim Adi; the first British person of African heritage to become a professor of History in the UK. Vice Chancellor, Professor Jane Longmore, and the institution have come under fire for taking this action, without the consultation or knowledge of Professor Adi, and have asked for economic justification for Professor Adi’s role and the course.
As recently reported by the Guardian:
“[A] spokesperson said the university had made the difficult decision to suspend or close a number of postgraduate courses that were not viable as the cost of delivery outweighed the income from fees received. The MRes in the history of Africa and the African diaspora was suspended after a review by the curriculum planning committee.
The spokesperson added: “Since the programme launched in 2017, the university has invested over £700,000 into the delivery of this programme but has only received £150,000 in tuition fees during this same time period.”
Initially, the idea for the MRes course emerged as a recommendation from the History Matters conference in 2015, much like the Young Historians Project. Intended to mainly train mature students of African and Caribbean heritage as historians, many people of all ages have gone on to study the course. Further, the course has attracted students from Africa, the Caribbean, North America, and Hong Kong as well as many from Britain. Seven MRes students have gone on to undertake studies at the PhD level, six of them at the University of Chichester. The course serves histories which are currently underserved in Britain and its institutions: the histories of Black people and members of the African diaspora in Britain.
In solidarity, many of Professor Adi’s past and present masters and PhD students rallied together to pen an open letter to Professor Longmore, and begin a campaign to stop Professor Adi's redundancy and the course's axing.
The open letter featured some of the following testimonies from past and current students:
“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 on properly conducting scholarly research are unparalleled. There are thousands of people similar to me in the United States alone who would enrol 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."
“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.”
“The quality of instruction from Professor Adi's detailed knowledge and commitment to his students to the careful array of topics, makes this course stand out. 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.”
After learning the news on Tuesday, 11th July, MRes graduates, current students and members of the History Matters group rallied together to create and disseminate a petition against the university’s plans. Since 13th July, almost 5,500 people have signed the petition in solidarity with Professor Adi, with over 270 people signing the petition alone on Sunday 23rd July.
Below are some of the first postings of solidarity on the petition, including comments from Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, former Research Professor in Sociology, Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London, and Dr. Cathy Bergin: Principal Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science and the University of Brighton.
“Just at a time when publishers and exam boards are recognising the fast growth of interest in teaching African, Caribbean and Black British history in schools - see recent Historical Association and Schools History Project conferences as well as new KS3 textbooks from Hodder and OUP as evidence - school teachers desperately need access to the rigorously researched scholarship which this unique course enables current and future historians to provide. The impact of cutting the course will, over time, be deeply felt and ultimately damaging to the reputation of Chichester University among students and teachers who realise the importance of this history for young people's understanding of themselves and their world.”
Martin Spafford, member of the Black and Asian Studies Association (BASA), member of Journey to Justice and retired secondary school History teacher
“This is a groundbreaking course led by a world-famous scholar, building a repository of knowledge that Britain sorely needs. I've run out of words to respond to the wilful destruction of our educational infrastructure.”
Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, former Research Professor, Sociology, Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London
“We need Prof. Hakim and all his students to ensure that these hidden aspects of history are discovered and revealed. Africans have lived here for 2000 years....”
Marika Sherwood, co-founder of BASA, researcher and historian
“took the course and achieved a distinction and am now a researcher at the University of Hong Kong.”
Clifford Perreira, BASA member, MRes graduate and Research Associate at the University of Hong Kong
“This is an absolute disgrace. Professor Adi's work is world-class and the University of Chichester should be on their knees in gratitude to have such a scholar. Moreover, this is a unique and important MA that any university that really cares about decolonization of the curriculum would never countenance closing. Revoke this assault on this vital area of work immediately.”
Dr. Cathy Bergin, Principal Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science and the University of Brighton
“This is a scandal. Professor Adi is one of Britain's most eminent scholars and a pioneering historian.”
Professor Priyamvada Gopal, Professor of Postcolonial Studies at the University of Cambridge
“The importance of Professor Adi’s work for schooling and all phases of education cannot be overstated. At a time when England and Wales are reviewing history curriculum and pedagogy and there are growing demands for decolonisation of curriculum and of institutions, the University of Chichester should be seeking to demonstrate how Prof Adi’s excellent work can make it a flagship institution and leader in this field, rather than shutting down the course and impeding Prof Adi’s unmatchable contribution to knowledge production and dissemination in an already far too eclipsed field in British academia.”
Professor Gus John, educationalist, political activist, academic, and writer
“The news is shocking and an absolute disgrace. This is a world-renowned scholar and an incredible programme we are talking about. We are not asking, we are demanding that the university reconsider its plans. Prof. O. Otele”
Professor Olivette Otele, the UK's first black female history professor and current research professor at SOAS
Since the campaign began, History Matters and the Young Historians Project members have been in contact with networks and allies to rally together. We secured a £500 donation thanks to UCU Oxford, primarily their incoming Equalities Officer Exec for UCU Oxford Branch and Young Historians Project member Holly. We have also attempted to engage with UCU Chichester to take a public stance on this issue but have received no response. However, our hopes are not up as Professor Adi has made appearances in broadcasted content, including the History Hotline, a podcast dedicated to black history hosted by YHP member and PhD History student at Queen Mary University London Deanna Lyncook, as well as an interview with Professor Silvester Henderson, an educator and speaker.
The campaign has only been going on for 2 weeks, and we have already gained national attention. We hope to see this decision reversed by the University of Chichester, but in the meantime, we will be posting weekly campaign updates.