University of Chichester faces legal challenge after suspension of African History Course

PUBLISHED : April 4, 2024

WORDS : Archive Team

The University of Chichester is facing criticism for its proposal to make Prof Hakim Adi, the first British person of African heritage to become a professor of history in the UK, redundant and to cut the course he runs. The university has suspended all recruitment to the master’s by research (MRes) course in the history of Africa and the African diaspora, which Adi founded in 2017.

This decision has caused outrage among students, who regard Adi as a trailblazer for historians of African descent and other underrepresented communities in the UK. An open letter to the vice-chancellor, Prof Jane Longmore, highlights that the MRes was primarily created to train mature students of African and Caribbean heritage as historians.

Adi said: “A unique course is being shut down; a master’s-level course in Britain, in Europe, in the world, that focuses on the history of Africa and the African diaspora. It is a course that was set up to train historians, especially those of African and Caribbean heritage, which is being lost, and there’s nothing to replace it.”

The university declined to comment on Adi’s employment status but stated that several postgraduate courses, including the MRes, were suspended or closed due to financial viability. The university has invested over £700,000 into the delivery of this programme but has only received £150,000 of tuition fees since its launch in 2017.

Adi described his proposed redundancy and the suspension of the master’s as an attack on black history and the training of black historians. He added that the figures released by the university on the investment it put into the course were “astonishing” and had not been previously provided to him.

Claudia Tomlinson, the first MRes graduate to receive her PhD at the University of Chichester, expressed disappointment and said many students had chosen the University of Chichester to be supervised by Adi. The university stated that despite extensive marketing, the course has always recruited a relatively small number of students.

In recent developments, a legal challenge has been initiated by the students affected by the suspension of the course. The 14 students, who were either studying on the MRes History of Africa and the African Diaspora course or conducting PhD research, have filed a civil claim alleging discrimination and breach of contract. The law firm Leigh Day, representing the students, issued a letter before action on their behalf on February 15th, challenging the university’s rationale and urging it to reverse its decision. This legal action has been gaining momentum and is backed by a growing tide of public support. An online petition supporting the students and Professor Adi continues to gain traction and has gathered almost 15,000 signatures to date.