Oxford University to Keep Cecil Rhodes Statue, Cites 'Financial Challenges' of Removal

Oxford University in England will keep its statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes, citing "regulatory and financial challenges," after previously expressing the desire to remove it and despite the recommendation of a specially appointed commission.

The governing body of Oxford's Oriel College, where the statue is mounted on the facade, made the decision after they "expressed their wish" to remove it during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests last June, the Associated Press reported.

"The governing body has carefully considered the regulatory and financial challenges, including the expected timeframe for removal, which could run into years with no certainty of outcome, together with the total cost of removal," the governing body announced.

The campaign for Rhodes' removal was due to his legacy of profiting off gold and diamond miners who worked in poor conditions in the late 19th century. He also supported the enforcement of apartheid in South Africa, where his statue was removed from the University of Cape Town in 2015.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

 Statue of Cecil Rhodes
Oxford University in England will keep its statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes, citing "regulatory and financial challenges," after previously expressing the desire to remove it. The statue on the facade of Oxford's Oriel College looks out over High Street and the college's front door. Matt Dunham/AP Photo

The governing body said it would focus more time and energy on "improving educational equality, diversity and inclusion amongst its student cohort and academic community."

Though a majority of members on the commission that handled the independent inquiry supported the original wish to remove the Rhodes' statue, Oriel College said its governing body has now "decided not to begin the legal process for relocation of the memorials."

Rhodes was an education benefactor whose legacy includes Oxford University's prestigious Rhodes scholarships, which have been awarded to international students for over a century. Famous Rhodes scholars include former U.S. President Bill Clinton and feminist writer Naomi Wolf.

His statue was removed from the University of Cape Town after students led a "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign.

During last year's Black Lives Matters protests, historical monuments and statues around the world, honoring figures from Christopher Columbus to Belgium's King Leopold II, became flash points in protests.

Perhaps most dramatically, in the English city of Bristol, the statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was forcibly removed by protesters and thrown into the harbor. Colston was prominently involved in England's slaving company, the Royal African Company, which transported tens of thousands of Africans across the Atlantic Ocean.

Neil Mendoza, Oriel College's principal, acknowledged that the decision not to remove Rhodes' statue will be "disappointing to some," but highlighted the initiative the college will take to improve its outreach.

"It has been a careful, finely balanced debate and we are fully aware of the impact our decision is likely to have in the U.K. and further afield," he said.

Cecil Rhodes Statue at Oriel College
Oxford University in England will keep its statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes, citing "regulatory and financial challenges," after previously expressing the desire to remove it. The statue on the facade of Oxford's Oriel College looks out over High Street and the college's front door. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images