HISTORY

Student protection measures not activated for suspended history courses at University of Chichester

When the University made Professor Hakim Adi redundant, his former graduate students pre-emptively refused any other supervisors. A current MRes student said he has not received any teaching in more than five months.

University House, University of Chichester
Jay Richardson

Jay Richardson

9 December 2023

The University of Chichester has not implemented its own student support measures for graduate students who are currently without a supervisor, and who may not have received any teaching in months, the sonification can reveal. The students summarily rejected alternative supervision proposals in October amidst an ongoing conflict over the redundancy of the renowned historian Professor Hakim Adi and the suspension of a Master’s degree course on the history of Africa and the African diaspora.

An active Student Protection Plan would require the University to send regular updates to students, facilitate transfers to other institutions, refund fees “if/where appropriate,” and offer alternative ways for students to finish their courses. The higher education regulator requires all registered providers to plan for myriad “risks to continuation of study.” They include the inability to teach a given subject area, course, course component, or “to recruit or teach a particular type of student,” and “single-person dependencies for teaching.”

The University’s plans remain inactive more than three months after the redundancies of Professor Adi, who taught the MRes History of Africa and the African Diaspora, and of Dr Dion Georgiou, who taught part of a BA Modern History course that is also suspended. Adi has said the University told him it was suspending the MRes in May, shortly before he took annual leave.

Spokesperson Claire Andrews said: “The University is committed to ensuring that all current students on these programmes are able to continue with and complete their studies. Given this commitment, it is not necessary or appropriate to activate our Student Protection Plan at this time.”

In July, the University and College Union criticised the University’s decision to link both historians’ redundancies to the courses they taught. Professor Adi was the first British person of African heritage to become a professor of history in the UK, and is still listed as a staff member on the University’s website.

Without Professor Adi, we see no future at Chichester and will keep up the struggle to find a new home for him and the MRes course. Both are too essential for the academic world to lose.

Jabari Osaze, a current Master’s student at Chichester, said: “My classes with Professor Adi ended in late May. I’ve not received supervision or guidance since that time.” Another student, Meserette Kentake, said: “I have paid all my fees, as I am studying full-time and was meant to complete my studies in early September.” The University did not answer questions about whether current students are still being charged tuition fees.

In a 6 September press conference, Professor Adi, whose 2022 book African and Caribbean People in Britain: A History was shortlisted this year for the prestigious Wolfson History Prize, said the students had been “left without a supervisor, without a specialist in the subject which they’re studying.”

In November 2021, Nadhim Zahawi, then Education Secretary, wrote to the Office for Students to “welcome a fresh focus from the OfS on the outcomes achieved by disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in higher education” as part of an “Access and Participation refresh.”

OfS spokesperson Megan Selway said: “Universities and colleges have the autonomy to decide what courses they run. If a university or college decides to close a course to new applicants, they should ensure that provisions for current students are put in place, allowing them to complete their studies. A decision to close a course for future student cohorts does not require the activation of a student protection plan.

“We can’t comment on individual cases. Where a course is closing to new students, providers need to make sure effective provisions are in place for existing students. If students are concerned that is not the case, they can complain to their university and escalate this to the Office for the Independent Adjudicator if they cannot find a resolution. Alternatively, if students—or others—believe there may have been a breach of one of our conditions of registration they can notify us.”

Speaking recently with the sonification, Professor Adi said: “Our course was different in that it had a particular aim. That specific aim came out of a conference in 2015 which looked at why there were so few students of African and Caribbean heritage studying history in this country.

“One of the things that people said was, ‘There are a lot of people who may even have gone through the whole education system and been put off history, but actually love history. If we had some way of bringing them back to education, giving them some training, and giving them a qualification, that would be a very good thing.’ That was the reason why the MRes was established.

“Once the course was set up, that’s exactly the kind of students it generally attracted. We did have some young students who had just graduated, but in the main, we had mature students of African and Caribbean heritage, who loved history, wanted to understand it more, wanted a qualification, and so on. Everything we set out to do, we did.”

An petition against the course’s suspension and Adi’s redundancy from the non-profit group History Matters has collected 14,000 signatures since mid-July. The text, addressed to the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane Longmore, says a “comparable course is not offered by this or any other university in the UK,” and describes the University’s actions as “a complete shock to not only [Professor Adi’s] students (current and former), but the wider community of historians, activists, teachers and countless advocates of an inclusive history, which necessarily embraces the History of Africa and the African Diaspora.” º

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