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Victoria University of Manchester

Victoria University of Manchester
Arms of the Victoria University of Manchester, adopted 1871
Former names
Owens College
Motto Latin: Arduus ad solem
Motto in English
"Striving towards the sun"
Active 12 March 1851[1]–1 October 2004
Type Public
Location Manchester, England, UK

The former Victoria University of Manchester, now the University of Manchester, was founded in 1851 as Owens College. In 1880, the college joined the federal Victoria University, gaining an independent university charter in 1904 as the Victoria University of Manchester after the collapse of the federal university.[2]

On 1 October 2004, the Victoria University of Manchester merged with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) to form a new, larger entity, and the new university was named the University of Manchester.


  • History 1
    • 1851–1951 1.1
    • 1951–2004 1.2
  • Officers 2
  • Notable people 3
  • Motto and arms 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8



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.[3] 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.[4] It became the first affiliate college of the federal Victoria University in 1880. In 1884, University College Liverpool also joined the Victoria University, followed in 1887 by the Yorkshire College in Leeds.

In 1903 University College Liverpool left the Victoria University to become the independent University of Liverpool, and Leeds followed in 1904 to become the University of Leeds. The new Victoria University of Manchester was established by royal charter on 15 July 1903; the university and Owens College were merged by Act of Parliament on 24 June 1904.


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.[5] 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's planning officer, H. Thomas; for St Peter's House the architects were Cruickshank & Seward.[6][7][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.

The university had more than 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 achieving top ratings for research.[9]


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

The chief officers of the university were the vice-chancellor,[10] 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 was Eddie Newcomb (1995–2004).[11]

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 II,[12] and the archives do not record the reasons for its choice.[13] 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.

According to Norman Marlow (A. N. Marlow, Senior Lecturer in Latin, Department of Classics at the 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 (Augustus Wilkins) and 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'.

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


  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. ^
  3. ^ Harte, Negley (1986) The University of London 1836–1986, p.106
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Manchester Education Precinct: final report / Hugh Wilson & Lewis Womersley. 1966
  6. ^ There are also shops at ground level and first floor level and in the early years there was a branch public library.
  7. ^ Pullan, Brian & Abendstern, Michele (2004) A History of the University of Manchester, 1973–90. Manchester University Press ISBN 0-7190-6242-X
  8. ^ Hartwell, C., et al. (2004) Lancashire: Manchester and the South-east. New Haven: Yales University Press; p. 429
  9. ^ Research Assessment Exercise; University of Manchester (The) Archived December 22, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Virgil Aeneid 2.475
  13. ^ Thompson, Joseph (1886) The Owens College--its foundation and growth. Manchester: J. E. Cornish

Further reading

  • Charlton, H. B. (1951) Portrait of a University, 1851–1951. Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • Fiddes, Edward (1937) Chapters in the History of Owens College and of Manchester University, 1851–1914. Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • Hartog, P. J. (1900), editor The Owens College, Manchester: a brief history of the college and description of its various departments. Manchester: J. E. Cornish
  • Brian Pullan, with Michele Abendstern (2000) A History of the University of Manchester, 1951–73. Manchester: Manchester University Press ISBN 0-7190-5670-5 Selected pages

External links

  • 1874 – Owens College, Manchester, Lancashire
  • The University of Manchester
  • Old website of The Victoria University of Manchester (closed Sep 2004)
  • Lists of students at Owens College
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