Membership and Details of Oriel Rhodes Commission of Inquiry Announced

  • Black and white photo of the Cecil Rhodes statue on a building belonging to Oriel College on Oxford's High Street
20 July, 2020

Details of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Rhodes statue and associated issues have been announced today (July 21st, 2020).

Commissioners will include the broadcaster Zeinab Badawi; Peter Ainsworth, former Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, and Michelle Codrington-Rogers, teacher and educationalist.

This follows the decision of Oriel College’s Governing Body last month (June 17th) to form the Independent Commission, after it expressed its wish to see the Cecil Rhodes statue and King Edward Street plaque removed.

The Commission will be tasked with considering the issue of the Rhodes legacy, including the statue, and how to improve access, attendance and experiences of BAME undergraduate, graduate students and faculty at Oriel College, together with a review of how the College’s 21st Century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past. The Independent Commission, whilst noting the Governing Body’s wish to see the statue removed, has licence to consider a full range of options for the statue.

Other Commissioners who have agreed to sit on the inquiry are; Geoffrey Austin, chair of the Oriel Alumni Advisory Committee; Shaista Aziz, Labour Party councillor on Oxford City Council; Laura Van Broekhoven, director of the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford; Margaret Casely-Hayford, CBE, lawyer and Chancellor of Coventry University and William Beinart, emeritus professor at Oxford University, formerly Rhodes Professor of Race relations and founding director at the university’s African Studies Centre. Full biographies are available on the Commission website (see bottom of page).

The Commission will invite submissions from a broad range of experts and stakeholders, including current and past students, representatives of Rhodes Must Fall and Oxford City Council, as well as the wider public. In particular, it is intended to convene a discussion with a group of historians.

A public notice will also be posted in the vicinity of the statue with details of the Commission and how people can contribute their views. Written and oral submissions will be requested, and it is intended that some oral evidence sessions will be held in public, with similar rules of engagement to that of a parliamentary select committee. The Commission, which will publish its findings in January 2021, will not be releasing any interim findings.

Carole Souter, CBE, current Master of St Cross College and former chief executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, will chair the Commission, which reflects the ambition of the Governing Body of Oriel to draw upon the greatest possible breadth and depth of experience, opinions and background.

Welcoming the Commissioners, Carole Souter said: “I would like to express my personal gratitude, and that of the Governing Body of Oriel College, to all of the new Commissioners for agreeing to undertake this timely and important work. Each of them has already made a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge, access and diversity within their relevant sphere of expertise, and I look forward to chairing their discussions on how the Rhodes legacy can best inform the future of Oriel College.”

Update (July 2021): The Commission website is no longer live, but the archived version (with the final content) can be found here: