Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott does not think Oxford University should remove a contested statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes.

Historians describe Rhodes, who died in 1902, as a segregationist who made a fortune in mining and grabbed land from the local population. However, he is also associated with education and philanthropy, partly because of the scholarships that carry his name.

Abbot, who himself was a Rhodes Scholar, told the Independent newspaper Thursday that he opposes the attempt to remove a statue honoring Rhodes.

He said bowing to public pressure would harm Oxford's "standing as a great university."

Oriel College at Oxford is reviewing whether to leave the statue in place.

Abbott says students at Oriel should be "clear-eyed" about his faults but recognize his accomplishments as well.