Victoria University of Manchester

Victoria University of Manchester
Victoria University of Manchester

Logo of the Victoria University of Manchester, before it merged with UMIST.
Motto Latin: Arduus ad solem
Motto in English "Striving towards the sun"
Active [1]12 March 1851–1 October 2004
Type Public
Location Manchester, England, UK
Former names Owens College

The Victoria University of Manchester (commonly known as the University of Manchester) was a university in Manchester, England. On 1 October 2004 it merged with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) to form a new entity, "The University of Manchester".



1851 - 1951

The University was founded in 1851 as Owens College, named after John Owens, a textile merchant, who left a bequest of £96,942 for the purpose. Its first accommodation was at Cobden House on Quay Street, Manchester, in a house which had been the residence of Richard Cobden. In 1859, Owens College was approved as a provincial examination centre for matriculation candidates of the University of London.[2] As the college progressed it became inadequate so a move to Chorlton on Medlock was planned in 1871 and Alfred Waterhouse was the architect of the new college building west of Oxford Road which was opened in 1873.[3] It was granted its Royal Charter in 1880, becoming the first constituent college of the federal Victoria University. In 1884, University College Liverpool joined the University, followed in 1887 by the Yorkshire College in Leeds.

In 1903, the college in Liverpool left the Victoria University to become the independent University of Liverpool and Leeds followed in 1904 to become the University of Leeds. The remaining university and college were merged by Act of Parliament, 24 June 1904 (the Victoria University of Manchester was established by royal charter 15 July 1903).

1951 - 2004

In the mid 1960s the University and the Corporation commissioned Hugh Wilson & Lewis Womersley to produce a new plan for the campus. The final report was issued in 1966 and included removing traffic from Oxford Road to the adjacent main routes east and west and a building called the Precinct Centre which was subsequently constructed in 1970-72.[4] The Precinct Centre building includes the oldest part of the Manchester Business School, Devonshire House and Crawford House and the St Peter's House, the University Chaplaincy. It stands on Booth Street East and Booth Street West and Oxford Road runs through it at ground level. The architects were Wilson & Womersley, in association with the University planning officer, H. Thomas; for St Peter's House the architects were Cruickshank & Seward.[5][6][7]

The University had over 18,000 full-time students (including 2500 international students from more than 120 countries) by the time it merged with UMIST. It was regarded as one of the top universities in the country, frequently getting top ratings for research.[8]

On 5 March 2003 it was announced that the University was to merge with UMIST on 1 October 2004, to form the largest conventional university in the UK, the University of Manchester, following which the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST would cease to exist. The new University was inaugurated on 1 October 2004.


See also Category:Vice-Chancellors of the Victoria University of Manchester

The chief officers of the University were the Vice-Chancellor,[9] the Registrar, the Bursar and the Librarian. In later years many administrative changes were made that increased the independence of the Director of Estates and Services, the Director of the Manchester Computing Centre, and eventually combined the offices of Registrar and Bursar as that of Registrar and Secretary, the last holder of this post being Eddie Newcomb (1995-2004).[10]

Notable people

Many famous or well-known people worked and studied at the Victoria University of Manchester: see People associated with the University of Manchester and List of University of Manchester people.

Motto and arms

The motto of the University was "Arduus ad solem", meaning "striving towards the sun". It is a metaphor for aspiring to enlightenment. It is quoted from Virgil's Aeneid book VI, and the archives do not record the reasons for its choice.[11] The original verse refers to a serpent and the sun, both of which featured in the university coat of arms. The serpent is traditionally associated with wisdom. The arms were granted in October 1871 to Owens College while the Victoria University had arms of its own which fell into abeyance from 1904 upon the merger of the College with the University.

The emblem of the University in use for a number of years (last used September 2004) was based on the archway into the quadrangle from Oxford Road where there used to be a set of coats of arms relating to the history of the component colleges on the gates.

See also

According to Norman Marlow (A.N.Marlow, Senior Lecturer in Latin, Department of Classics at the Victoria University in the 1960s), the motto Arduus ad solem - taken from Aeneid II - was a play on words, relating to Manchester's geographical situation. The Virgilian context referred to Pyrrhus, appearing in shining armour 'like a snake which has sloughed its skin, reaching upwards with an effort towards the sun'; the motto was chosen by the Professor of Latin at the time the coat of arms was applied for - suggesting both the idea of the institution striving towards excellence, and the city (with its particularly high annual rainfall) 'reaching upwards with difficulty towards the sun'.

  • List of modern universities in Europe (1801–1945)


  1. ^ 12 March 1851 is the opening date of Owens College; the Victoria University received a royal charter 20 April 1880; a royal charter of 15 July 1903 created the Victoria University of Manchester (and abolished the pre-existing University); University and College were merged by Act of Parliament 24 June 1904. Charlton, H. B. (1951) Portrait of a University. Manchester: U. P.; p. 138.
  2. ^ Harte, Negley (1986) The University of London 1836-1986, p.106
  3. ^ Both buildings still exist: the Quay Street house has been adapted to many purposes, recently as offices for solicitors. The college building by Waterhouse is described in the article on the University of Manchester.
  4. ^ Manchester Education Precinct: final report / Hugh Wilson & Lewis Womersley. 1966
  5. ^ There are also shops at ground level and first floor level and in the early years there was a branch public library.
  6. ^ Pullan, Brian & Abendstern, Michele (2004) A History of the University of Manchester, 1973-90. Manchester University Press ISBN 0-7190-6242-X
  7. ^ Hartwell, C., et al. (2004) Lancashire: Manchester and the South-east. New Haven: Yales University Press; p. 429
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Vice-Chancellor's Archive". ELGAR: Electronic Gateway to Archives at Rylands. John Rylands Library. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  10. ^ "Eddie Newcomb". AHUA Annual Conference 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  11. ^ Thompson, Joseph (1886) The Owens College--its foundation and growth. Manchester: J. E. Cornish

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