Panellists information: Core Event III

We are proud to release the panellists for the third Core Event of the Common Ground Symposium 2018, How does Oxford perpetuate the class system? We have brought together individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to bring to this issue, and we know this will be an important and thought-provoking event. The panellists are:

Dr Peter Claus, Access Fellow & Fellow in History at Pembroke College, Oxford
Michelle Codrington-Rogers, teacher at Cherwell School & Oxfordshire Federation Secretary for the NASUWT
Dr Peter Hill, Junior Research Fellow in Oriental Studies & Hon. Secretary, Oxford UCU
Jaycie Carter, Oxford University student & co-founder/former Co-Chair of the Oxford SU Class Act Campaign
Riley Quinn, writer, commentator, and host of the Trashfuture podcast

The event will be chaired by Mia Liyanage, a member of Common Ground’s Core Team.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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ANNOUNCEMENT: full timetable for the 2018 Common Ground Symposium

We are incredibly excited to release our full timetable of both Core and College-based events for the upcoming Common Ground Symposium, which will run from 4th-11th May, and is entitled Revisiting the Past, Envisioning the Future: Race, Class, and Oxford. For more information, please see our Facebook page, and watch this space for further announcements: details and speakers are yet to be revealed!

Our mission continues to be to start conversations about Oxford’s continued connections to colonialism & issues with class and race in both the University and the wider city. We have produced a statement on the need for our symposium; it is available to read under the “Press Statements” tab.

We look forward to seeing you at the symposium! To register for FREE Eventbrite tickets for the Core Events (recommended), please follow the below links:

Symposium Opening Night: Entrenched Roots 

The Sun Never Set on the British Empire

How Does Oxford Perpetuate the Class System?

Symposium Closing Night: Uprooted


Common Ground Symposium 2018: Core Events Teaser!

Common Ground are proud to announce the Core Events for our highly anticipated 2018 symposium, which will be held in Oxford from 4th-11th May.

The symposium will comprise a week-long programme of events spearheaded by four Core Events, outlined below. The Core Events follow a rough chronological theme: our opening night, ‘Entrenched Roots’, will reflect on the past; the two panel events will tackle issues of first race, then class, in Oxford’s present; and our closing night, ‘Uprooted’, will celebrate our diversity and look to the future – to what a more equal Oxford could look like, and how we can get there.

A statement of purpose for the symposium is to follow, as well as further details of the Core Events and many others being organised by the Common Ground Team!

We look forward to seeing you all there!

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Schedule of Events

The second Common Ground symposium is entitled

Revisiting the Past, Envisioning the Future: Race, Class, and Oxford

and will be held between 4th and 11th May 2018. Please find the full itinerary below!

To register for FREE Eventbrite tickets for the Core Events (recommended), please follow the below links:

Symposium Opening Night: Entrenched Roots 

The Sun Never Set on the British Empire

How Does Oxford Perpetuate the Class System?

Symposium Closing Night: Uprooted


Oxford Continues to Defend Colonialism at Every Opportunity – A Response from Common Ground

As members of Common Ground Oxford, we stand in solidarity with all those condemning Nigel Biggar’s article in The Times on 30th November, ‘Don’t Feel Guilty About Our Colonial History’. The inaccuracy displayed by Biggar, as well as a conspicuous lack of rigour, must not go unchallenged. He implies that colonised societies had no political order prior to colonisation, invoking a racist, hackneyed, and fictional trope about the nature of pre-colonial societies. Colonial conquest destroyed pre-existing orders. The cry “to moderate our post-imperial guilt” is most damaging. With 44% of Britons proud of British colonialism, and 43% of the British population believing colonisation was a good thing, the only force that needs to be moderated is the force of historical amnesia of which Biggar’s article provides a chilling example. Biggar’s intentions are revealed in the links drawn between colonisation and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; by whitewashing the British Empire, Biggar seeks to justify a post-colonial agenda of interference that destabilizes developing nations. He is not simply asking the British to not feel guilty about their colonial history, but asserting that Britain should still feel confident in its right to meddle in other countries’ affairs.

We now read with concern and horror that Nigel Biggar is co-leading a project on ‘Ethics and Empire’, with the goal “to measure apologies and critiques of empire against historical data from antiquity to modernity across the globe”. We believe Nigel Biggar has shown himself to be an inauspicious and inappropriate leader for this project. In a speech at the Oxford Union on whether the Rhodes statue should be relocated, Biggar was the only speaker who chose simply to defend Cecil Rhodes. He talked of Cecil Rhodes as one of “our heroes”. He insisted that Rhodes “was not racist”, a statement that can only be based on either a naively narrow view of what racism is, or a fundamental ignorance of historical evidence.

It is said that “[f]urther details of the project will be available soon.” As part of these details, we request that the following questions be answered:

  • Who is funding the project on ‘Ethics and Empire’?
  • Is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Louise Richardson, proud of this, perhaps the most major initiative announced since the Rhodes Must Fall campaign?
  • Is this what is needed at the University of Oxford – a project led by someone pushing to “moderate our post-imperial guilt” – when Oxford continues to memorialise celebrating slave-owners such as Christopher Codrington and imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes, and when Oxford continues to fail to act to address current-day racism, as demonstrated by the fact that nearly 1 in 3 Oxford colleges failed to admit a single black British student in the last year?
  • What input did students and faculty of colour have in the design of this project?
  • Will black students, students of colour, and students with families affected by colonisation have a role to play in this project? If not, why not?

Many more questions could be asked, and much more could be said, about this project. But the proud announcement of this project, following on the heels of Biggar’s bigoted article, reflects a university that has shown itself to be singularly incapable of reckoning with its colonial past – and singularly incapable of taking responsibility for how that past continues to shape its present and its future.

If the University of Oxford, our University, wanted to reckon properly with that past – and its impact on the present and future – it would not stand idly by in the face of Biggar’s commendation of imperialists and apologies for colonialism.


Useful links:

Ethics and Empire: An Open Letter from Oxford Scholars

Oxford historians object to empire project – BBC News

Response from Oxford Centre for Global History

Oxford University Africa Society’s Statement

Response from Dr. Kim Wagner (Queen Mary University of London)


Review: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward Panel

By Ebubechi Okpalugo.


Firmly nestled within the end of term buzz, ‘Making Rhodes History: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward’ opened up a multi-faceted discussion of the legacy of imperialism, exploring, but importantly going beyond, Rhodes Must Fall Oxford (RMF).  The eclectic voices of 6 panellists and one mediator ranged from a previous Rhodes scholar to the director of the Pitt Rivers Museum.  The panel was chaired by All Souls student Max Harris, and took place at Christ Church college.

Continue reading “Review: Taking the Decolonisation Project Forward Panel”

Oxford students and academics support Jason Osamede Okundaye

Students and academics from the University of Oxford have rallied together from across disciplines, colleges and departments to sign an open letter in a show of solidarity with Jason Osamede Okundaye, a Cambridge University student.

If you are a student or academic at Oxford, and want to show Jason your support, fill out the google form here.

Read the letter below:

Continue reading “Oxford students and academics support Jason Osamede Okundaye”

Review: Oxford University and the British Class System Panel

By Eimer McAuley.

40% of students from 7% of schools. The statistic that headlines Common Ground’s panel discussion presents the extent of social inequality as an inescapable, inarguable fact.

It makes me wonder why, so often, in conversations about social inequality at Oxford, I feel like a raving conspiracy theorist. The University’s catalogue of efforts in outreach, the argument that Oxbridge is a scapegoat for wider issues of inequality in education, and the importance of maintaining an academic standard of the ‘best and brightest’, are all easily mounted defences, which suggest that the demographics of the student body aren’t the fault of the University.

So, sitting in front of the leading experts in education and access, I’m eager to hear why institutional classism and racism are so evident in Oxbridge admissions, and get some answers as to what should be done about it.

Continue reading “Review: Oxford University and the British Class System Panel”

Undressing – an extract

Filmed and produced by Ella Gannon, with Beth Davies-Kumadiro. Featuring Femi Nylander, after his final exam at Oxford 2016. ‘Cocktails with Orpheus’ by Terence Hayes is read by Gazelle Mba.