Imperial History Dialogue
The History Group was commissioned by Imperial’s President’s Board to examine the history of the College through its links to the British Empire, and to report on the present understanding and reception of the College’s legacy and heritage in the context of its present-day mission, which is ‘to achieve enduring excellence in research and education in science, engineering, medicine and business for the benefit of society’.
In October 2021 the History Group completed their review and published a report, which included a number of proposed recommendations. You can read the History Group’s Full Report.
Following its publication Imperial held a dialogue with the community to hear their views on how best to respond to the issues raised in the report. This History Group were not involved in the community conversation. Hundreds of staff, students and alumni have shared their views via small group discussions led by independent facilitators, the History dialogue Forum on 26 January 2022 and written contributions to an email inbox. You can read redacted versions of the contributions received during the dialogue below.
President’s Board, one of the College’s most senior governing bodies, met on Monday 21 February to consider all feedback received and to decide on next steps for the College. You can read the summaries of President’s Board meetings.
Find out more about action to be taken below or in the College’s news story.
President’s Board have committed to the following:
- We will find new ways to mark the impact and contributions of brilliant but undercelebrated Imperial people like Professor Abdus Salam, Dr Margaret Fishenden, and Dr Narinder Singh Kapany. This is long overdue, and we will continue to seek out new figures deserving of greater celebration and ways to make their contributions more widely known.
- We will consider a joint name for the Huxley Building, with the aim of adding the name of a pathbreaking scientist from a Black, Asian or other minority ethnic background.
- The name and bust of Huxley will be retained, but it will be clearly put into a fuller context in order to provide everyone with a more complete understanding of Huxley’s complex character and achievements as well as his flaws, including his racially prejudiced writings.
- A similar approach will be adopted for the Beit Building and statue, with a focus on providing a fuller understanding of the Beit brothers’ impact in southern Africa. The College will consult with students and explore whether to add an African scientist to the building’s name.
- Contextualising narrative will also be developed for any co-named person.
We will find new, prominent ways of ensuring that the complexities of key figures are fully understood alongside the College’s values. This will include acknowledging both their positive contributions to science and to Imperial in parallel with the ways in which they have espoused or entrenched views that are in conflict with our values by harming progress towards racial equality and justice.
History Working Group Membership and TOR
A history working group, made up of a subgroup of President’s Board, Consuls, and staff and student representatives, has been established to explore options take forward agreed-upon actions. The working group will report back to President’s Board in April.
Terms of Reference
- To implement President’s Board’s agreed-upon actions in response to the History Group report and advise President’s Board on how the College will acknowledge and contextualise its history.
- To work with the community to find new ways to mark the impact and contributions of brilliant but undercelebrated people from the College’s past.
- To explore new, prominent ways to ambitiously contextualise the College’s history in relation to the building names and statues of Beit and Huxley, including consideration of dual naming.
- To establish new ways for the Imperial community to continue to expose, engage with and learn from its history.
Harbhajan Brar, Director of HR
Francisco Veloso, Dean of the Imperial College Business School
Maggie Dallman, Vice President (International), Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships)
Sarah Essilfie-Quaye, FoM Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Research Fellow and Co-Chair of Imperial As One
Richard Jardine, Senior Consul and Professor of Geomechanics
Richard Martin, Director of Academic Services
Hayley Wong, Imperial College Union President
Jane Neary, Director of Campus Services
Nilay Shah, Professor of Process Systems Engineering
Kathryn Charlesworth Operations and Projects Officer
Deborah Evanson, Press and Communications Manager
President’s Board acknowledge the value in sharing the dialogue contributions with the community. These have been published as annonymised versions to protect those who shared their views in confidence.