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University of Manchester Archives

Date range: 1824-present

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The origins of Manchester University can be traced back to 1845 when the Manchester merchant John Owens (1790-1846) bequeathed almost £100,000 for the foundation of 'an institution for providing or aiding the means of instructing and improving young persons of the male sex (and being of an age not less than fourteen years) in such branches of learning and science as were then and might be... taught in the English Universities'.

Thus Owens College was established in 1851 in Richard Cobden's house on Quay Street. The College was affiliated to the University of London, and students who successfully completed a two-year course at Manchester had the opportunity to take external London degrees. During the 1860s, the College raised funds for a new campus at Oxford Road, Manchester, which opened in 1873, and incorporated the former Manchester Royal School of Medicine as its new medical school.

In 1880, a charter was issued for the new Victoria University, a federal university for the North of England; Owens College was its first constituent member later joined by college in Liverpool in 1884 and Leeds in 1887. The Victoria University granted degrees to women, and from 1883, Owens admitted women students. By the turn of the century there was pressure again for the establishment of an independent University of Manchester. In 1903 the federal Victoria University was disbanded and the Victoria University of Manchester was established.

The University established a Faculty of Technology in 1905, which was based at the Manchester Municipal School (later College) of Technology. The School itself ultimately derived from the Manchester Mechanics' Institution, established in 1824. The University was responsible for all degree-level students at the School. In 1956 the College of Technology became the Manchester College of Science and Technology, a chartered university college which retained a close connection to the University of Manchester. In 1966 it was renamed the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). UMIST became a fully independent institution in 1994.

In 2004 the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST amalgamated to form The University of Manchester, a new foundation established by Royal Charter.

The University Archives are comprehensive, and include records of governing bodies, administrative and support departments, academic faculties and departments, cultural institutions (Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery), halls of residence, staff and student societies, and a wide range of official publications, newspapers, magazines, cuttings, photographs and ephemera.

Collectively, the archives constitute one of the most significant research resources available for the history of British higher education. The archives are important in charting the development of one of the earliest 'red-brick' universities, and include invaluable source material for such topics as the development of academic research and teaching, relations with central government and other public bodies, university funding, student recruitment, including the admission of women students, university architecture, and the social, political and cultural activities of students.

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Catalogues available for constituent archives online via ELGAR. For further details, see the University Archives web-pages.

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