Ardwick Heritage Trail

Manchester University

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History of the University

The University of Manchester has been created by bringing together The Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST, two of Britain’s most distinguished universities, to create a powerful new force in British Higher Education.

Manchester has a long tradition of excellence in Higher Education. UMIST can trace its roots back to 1824 and the formation of the Manchester Mechanics’ Institute, whilst The Victoria University of Manchester was founded as Owens College in 1851.

After 100 years of working together, these two great institutions formally combined to form a single university on 22 October 2004.

Ernest Rutherford’s pioneering research led to the splitting of the atom.

23 Nobel Prize winners have either studied or conducted some of their work here: Rutherford began his work on splitting the atom here and the world’s first modern computer also came into being at The Victoria University of Manchester.

Former students of UMIST and The Victoria University of Manchester include Sir Terry Leahy, the Chief Executive of Tesco; TV newsreader Anna Ford; comedian Ben Elton; pioneer of flight Arthur Whitten-Brown; and novelist Anthony Burgess.

The University’s history is closely linked to Manchester’s emergence as the world’s first industrial city.

Manchester businessmen and industrialists established the Mechanics’ Institute to ensure their workers could learn the basic principles of science.

Similarly, John Owens, a Manchester textile merchant, bequeathed £96,942 in 1846 for the purpose of founding a college for the education of males on non-sectarian lines. Owens College was established and granted a Royal Charter in 1880 to become England’s first civic university, The Victoria University of Manchester.

By 1905 the two institutions were a large and active force in the area with the Mechanics’ Institute, the forerunner of the modern UMIST, forming a Faculty of Technology and working alongside The Victoria University of Manchester.

This relationship worked to the advantage of all, not least the many students who received a first class education and the employers who benefitted from the knowledge and skills imparted by the two institutions.

Although UMIST achieved independent university status in 1955, the two universities continued to work together, true to the vision of their pioneering industrialist founders, until they merged in October 2004.

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