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UMIST Main Bulding on Whitworth Street

The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) was a university based in the centre of the city of Manchester in England. It specialised in technical and scientific subjects and was a major centre for research. On October 1 2004, it merged with the Victoria University of Manchester to form the University of Manchester, the largest conventional university in the United Kingdom.

UMIST gained its Royal Charter in 1956 and became a fully autonomous university in 1993. Previously its degrees were awarded by the Victoria University of Manchester.


The Mechanics' Institute (1824-1882)

The foundation of UMIST can be traced to 1824 during the Industrial revolution when a group of Manchester businessmen and industrialists met in a pub, the Bridgewater Arms, to establish the Mechanics' Institute in Manchester, where artisans could learn basic science, particularly mechanics and chemistry. Hundreds of such institutions were founded in towns and cities throughout the country and while many of the fine Victorian buildings built to house them remain, Manchester's alone survived as an independent institution serving some of its original educational aims throughout the 20th century

The meeting, convened by G. Wood on 7 April 1824, was attended by prominent members of the science and engineering community, including:

The Tech (1883-1917)

In 1883 secretary of the Institution John Henry Reynolds reorganised the Institution as a Technical School using the schemes and examinations of the City and Guilds of London Institute. A new building was begun in 1895 and opened by the Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in October 1902. This is the western end of what is currently known as UMIST's Main Building, pictured above. By this time the institution was called the Manchester Municipal School of Technology or fondly known as The Tech.

As befits its roots in the early chemical industry of the region the Tech had pioneered Chemical Engineering as an academic subject in Britain. Similarly in the 1920s it pioneered academic training in Management, with the formation of a Department of Industrial Administration funded by an endowment from asbestos magnate Samuel Turner. But perhaps a more significant advance was the foundation in 1905 of a Faculty of Technology, answerable academically to its 'younger sister' the Victoria University of Manchester and awarding BSc and MSc degrees, the beginnings of UMIST as a University and the first technology faculty in the country.

Establishment as a university (1918-1993)

In 1918, the institution changed name again to Manchester Municipal College of Technology. By 1949 over 8500 students were enrolled, however most still studying non-degree courses. The appointment of B.V. Bowden (later Lord Bowden of Chesterfield) in 1953 marked the beginning of a phase of expansion. During 1955 and 1956 the Manchester College of Science and Technology achieved independent university status under its own Royal Charter and became separately funded from the University Grants Committee.

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A UMIST crest from late the 20th Century

By 1966 all non-degree courses were moved to the Manchester Polytechnic which is now known as Manchester Metropolitan University, and in 1966 the name finally changed to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester retained close ties for the second half of the 20th Century, with UMIST students being awarded, or having the choice of, a University of Manchester degree until full autonomy in 1993.

Achievements and evolution

During the last quarter of the 20th century UMIST established a reputation as a major research-based university, performing well in the government's Research Assessment Exercise in 2001, and was well placed in various league tables. UMIST has won four Queen's Prizes for Higher and Further Education, two Prince of Wales' Awards for Innovation and two Queen's Award for Export Achievement.

UMIST was instrumental in the founding of what is now the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Famous alumni include Nobel Laureate in nuclear physics Sir John Cockcroft, aeroplane pioneer Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, and designer of the Lancaster bomber Roy Chadwick. While famous lecturers include mathematicians Louis Joel Mordell and Lewis Fry Richardson.

In 2004 Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco and alumnus was the last Chancellor of UMIST, and the Vice Chancellor was fittingly a chemical engineer, Prof John Garside.

UMIST, together with the Victoria University of Manchester ceased to exist on 1 October 2004, when they were combined in a new single University of Manchester hoping to combine the strengths and traditions of both.

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