In a bid to increase diversity and representation, Oxford University has announced that it will be putting on display more than 20 new portraits of female alumni on their walls. The Diversifying Portraiture initiative, one of the university’s biggest projects ever, selected the new portraits with the assistance of student and staff nominations, and will also include more people from ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and people from the LGBT+ community.
Amongst those named as new portraits are broadcaster Dame Esther Rantzen, human rights activist Kumi Naidoo, and BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti. The project’s criteria for choosing these new portrait subjects included their being outstanding examples, and their ability to challenge stereotypes and the current lack of variety in the university’s existing portraits.
The university has previously faced criticism over its current lack of diversity within its student body, with figures earlier this year showing that its proportion of state school pupils being one of the lowest of any university in the UK.
Oxford University’s head of equality, Trudy Coe, said of the project, “We’re not taking anyone down – but the portraits have been almost exclusively men and we’re just beginning to redress the balance. It will allow students to look up and see people who look like them. It’s sending a signal to a wider range of students that they belong here.”
Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the university, also said, “There is nothing quite like walking into a room and seeing someone who looks like you honoured in a portrait on the wall. It is so important for all of us to be reminded that achievement and leadership come in all colours, shapes and sizes.”