Glasgow University has announced it will pay £20 million in reparations for its part in the slave trade.
It is believed to be the first institution in the UK to pledge money to atone for its links to the transatlantic slave trade.
The ‘programme of restorative justice’ will be managed in partnership with the University of the West Indies and the target money will be spent over the next 20 years on establishing the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research.
The centre, to be co-located in Glasgow and the Caribbean, will ‘stimulate public awareness about the history of slavery’, the university said.
Glasgow University is believed to be the first institution in the UK to pledge money to atone for its links to the transatlantic slave trade
A recent report commissioned by the university found that it played a leading role in the abolitionist movement in the 18th and 19th centuries.
But it also found that the institution received ‘significant financial support’ from people who profited from slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries.
It found that it had received between £16.7m and £198m in today’s money.
One former university rector was Robert Cunninghame Graham, who spent two decades making his fortune as a slaver.
Though other UK universities, such as Bristol and Oxford, have had their links to slavery highlighted before, none are thought to have offered reparations.
The money will be made up mainly of gifts and research grants.
Other British universities, including Oxford and Bristol, have been the focus of protests over their ties to the slave trade and to powerful colonialists, such as Cecil Rhodes.
Georgetown University undergraduate students vote to pay $27 per-semester fee for slavery reparations
In April, Georgetown University students voted in favor of a referendum seeking the establishment of a fund that benefits the descendants of enslaved people who were sold by the school in the 1800s to pay off its debts.
The $27.20-per-semester fee would create one of the first reparations funds at a major U.S. institution.
More than 2,500 undergraduate students at the Washington D.C. campus voted in favor on Thursday for the ‘Reconciliation Contribution’ fee.
The Georgetown University Student Association Elections Commission said those in favor (2,541) represented 66 per cent of votes.
Though revealed today, the agreement was first signed in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 31.
Sir Hilary Beckles, the vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, hailed the moved as a ‘bold, moral, historic step’.
Anton Muscatelli, the principal of Glasgow University, said: ‘Talking about any institution’s or country’s historical links to slavery can be a difficult conversation, but we felt it was a necessary one for our university to have.’
Graham Campbell, a Scottish National party councillor, spoke about the agreement and told the Guardian: ‘Our mutual recognition of the appalling consequences of that past – an indictment of Scottish inhumanity over centuries towards enslaved Africans – are the justifications that are at the root of the modern-day racism that we fight now,’ he said.
‘This action is a necessary first step in the fight against institutionalised racism and discrimination in Scotland and the UK and for the international fight for reparative justice.’
Cambridge University earlier this year announced a two-year investigation into its historic links to slavery, looking at bequests from traders and how its academics might have influenced ‘race-based thinking’.
It is also reportedly looking into potential reparations.
A report found that the institution received ‘significant financial support’ from people who profited from slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries
Universities in Britain and the United States have in recent years faced protests by students over their past associations with imperialism and slavery.
In 2016, Cambridge’s Jesus College removed from its main hall a bronze cockerel statue stolen with other artefacts from the West African kingdom of Benin in the 19th century.
Around the same time, rival Oxford University faced an angry but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to remove a statue of 19th-century British imperialist Cecil Rhodes.
However, author and academic Joanna Williams told the BBC: ‘For me, the number one problem with this is that it suggests people who are alive today bear some historical responsibility for what their ancestors did in the past.
‘[These were] truly barbaric and criminal acts, but to suggest that people alive today are responsible for the sins of their ancestors is a step too far.’
She added: ‘It also suggests that other people who are alive today are victims of what happened to their ancestors. There comes a point we all need to move on from that and say that the past is the past.’