Our History

The University of Manchester Students’ Union has a rich history, with its roots stretching right back to 1861 when a union was founded for men studying at Owens College. Here is a broad timeline of all the events that led up to the formation of the Union you know today…

  • 1900: a women’s Union was founded, which continued separately to the men’s for 67 years.
  • 1903: Owen’s College became the Victoria University of Manchester.
  • 1908: the Men’s Union and the Women’s Union moved into a specially constructed building on the site of the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons, which also housed the University Refectory.
  • 1910: a students’ union was formed at the Faculty of Technology, which became UMIST, on North Campus. It was known as the Tech Union and enjoyed a healthy rivalry with the unions on Oxford Road.
  • 1917: the Students’ Union published its first magazine, called the Serpent. This is seen as the start of a long legacy of journalistic writing at UMSU.
  • 1921: the first RAG Shrove Tuesday charity collection raised £658.
  • 1930s: the Men’s Union opened a licenced bar which would ensure its place at the heart of student life in Manchester.
  • 1934: Serpent was replaced by News Bulletin, which focused more on keeping students up to date on what was going on in the Unions and what different societies were doing.
  • 1939-1945: during World War II many students did military service and men that continued their studies had to serve in the University Fire Brigade. Women did a great deal of relief work, including running emergency kitchens to help Mancunians who had lost their homes during the Blitz. In the years after the War, students were expected to help with bomb clearance around the city.
  • 1957: the Victoria University of Manchester moved into a brand new building – our current building – which was opened by the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. The new building had a debating hall with a capacity of 500, a coffee bar, a common room and mixed bar called the Serpent Bar.
  • 1963: the main debating hall (now Academy 2) started to host gigs and concerts. The Kinks, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones all played here.
  • 1964: The Mancunion student newspaper was founded. The paper has held successive Exec Officers to account over the years and many editors have gone to great things in journalism. Also in 1964, students voted for an Anti-Apartheid policy. This was not only significant in terms of international student support for the movement in South Africa but also because it represented the first time that the Students’ Union took a position and campaigned on an issue outside the realm of education and student life.
  • 1966: socially-minded students started Community Action to help local people. The projects were at the intersection of activism and volunteering. Students have been volunteering with children, homeless people and elderly people ever since. Community Action became Student Action in the 1990s.
  • 1967: the Men’s and Women’s Unions combined to form the University of Manchester Students’ Union after Anna Ford had been elected as the first joint President of the Students’ Unions in 1965. It was one of the last unions to be unified in the country.
  • 1971: the Students’ Union lobbied the University into withdrawing from £140,000 worth of investments in South Africa as part of the Anti-Apartheid campaign.
  • 1985: the Students’ Union led the way in the national student movement by electing a Women’s Officer as a full-time sabbatical position. Many other unions have followed suit and Manchester remains at forefront of the Women’s Campaign nationally.
  • 1990: the Academy opened and rapidly became one of Manchester’s premier venues. The Buzzcocks played the first gig and since then it has played stage to the likes of Oasis, Kylie Minogue and Prince. 
  • 2001: Fuse FM, the student radio station, started broadcasting.
  • 2004: The University of Manchester was formed when the Victoria University and UMIST combined. The new unified University of Manchester Students’ Union now has nearly 40,000 members on the main Oxford Road Campus and at North Campus.
  • 2006: the first Pangaea Festival was held. Pangaea is now the largest student-led festival in Europe. It was originally the vision of a small group of students who wanted to put on a massive event that was for students and run by students.
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