Glasgow University commits to ‘historic’ £20m slave trade reparations deal

Written by Emily Woods on 2 August 2019 in News

The deal, signed with the University of the West Indies, includes creating the "Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research".

University of Glasgow - Image credit: Flickr

The University of Glasgow has committed to a “historic” £20m deal as part of its reparations for profiting from historic slavery.

In 2016 the university acknowledged it “received some gifts and bequests from persons who may have benefitted from the proceeds of slavery” in the 18th and 19th centuries and formed the History of Slavery Steering Committee, which produced a 2018 report with recommendations.

On 31 July senior representatives of the university signed a “historic memorandum of understanding” (MOU) with the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Kingston Jamaica.

Over the next 20 years the university has committed to “raising and spending £20m as part of its programme of reparative justice”. The universities have agreed to work together to attract external funding for projects that will benefit parts of the world affected by the slavery trade.

The MOU includes the creation of the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research, which will host activities, events, sponsor research work and coordinate academic collaborations with other universities including the UWI.

Glasgow University chief operating officer David Duncan said it was a “historic occasion” for the institution.

“When we commissioned our year-long study into the links the University of Glasgow had with historical slavery we were conscious both of the proud part that Glasgow played in the abolitionist movement, and an awareness that we would have benefitted, albeit indirectly from that appalling and heinous trade,” Duncan said.

“From the very first we determined to be open, honest and transparent with the findings, and to produce a programme of reparative justice.

“I am delighted that as a result of the report we are now able to sign a memorandum of understanding between the University of Glasgow and the UWI and I look forward to the many collaborative ventures that we will jointly undertake in future.”

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, co-signatory to the MOU, said it was a “bold, moral” step for the university to recognise its historic dealings with slavery, and “to rise as an advocate of reparatory justice, and an example of 21st century university enlightenment.”

On August 23, coinciding with UNESCO’s International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade, the university will unveil a commemorative plaque in honour of the enslaved.

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