Archive of the University of Manchester Adviser to Women Students

  • Reference
      GB 133 AWS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1.5 metres 34 items some items are damaged
  • Location
      Collection available at: University Archive and Records Centre, main John Rylands University Library.

Scope and Content

The archive is by no means complete, and consists principally of a mixture of minute books, student records and correspondence files. The earliest items are pasted in a scrapbook compiled by Edith C.Wilson (first Tutor for Women) (AWS/6). Registers record the names of women students entering the University, up to 1912, and women graduates, between 1883 and 1940 (AWS/5). Photographs of all the women students in the University, with their names indicated, are included for the years 1935-36 and 1938-39 (AWS/4).

The Adviser’s files (AWS/2) include material on student-staff relations, accommodation and employment, including relating to the Joint Committee on Student Affairs (1928-50),Civil Service Committee (1927-54), and the Social Sanctions Committee, the approval of which was required for all social events organised by students, from 1927-1961.

Women students had unsuccessfully sought membership of the Owens College Union from 1883, and resisted the formation of a separate Womens’ Union in case this made the achievement of their aim less likely. Eventually, however, they capitulated and a Women’s Union was created in 1899. A small amount of material relates to the Adviser's relations with the Women's Union.

Accommodation for women who did not live at home, was a key issue for many years. Eventually three main women's halls of residence were set up: Ashburne, Langdale and Ellis Llwyd Jones. Many other women students lived in lodgings and a ‘Rooms Committee’ was set up to approve suitable accommodation and deal with any problems. The records of this exist up from 1908-1944 (AWS/1).

The availability of scholarships for women was always a contentious issue, and whether women were to be entitled to compete with male students for existing scholarships provoked much debate. Initially only a very few, privately endowed scholarships, were earmarked for women. Eventually the “1918 Fund" was set up, in recognition of the excellence of the work of women during the War. This provided a number of entrance scholarships for women, and the archive contains the records of its establishment and administration (AWS/3).

Administrative / Biographical History

The will of John Owens included a bequest to establish an institution for ‘instructing and improving young persons of the male sex’. He made no provision for the education of women, and for its first thirty years Owens College was an exclusively male establishment.. In 1870-1, acts of Parliament revised the provisions of John Owens' will and permitted the admission of women. The conditions for this, however, were onerous, since the first call on the College's funds was always to be the instruction of male applicants, and there was a requirement that the sexes must be segregated, which had the practical effect of increasing the costs of instruction. In fact it was a further twelve years before women were actually admitted to membership of the College.

In 1875-6 a limited number of classes were held, which women were permitted to attend as ‘visitors’, without paying fees. In 1877 the Manchester and Salford College for Women was established. Although not part of Owens College, it had close links as academics sat on its Council and provided teaching.

In 1880 the Victoria University was established as a federal university, and its charter permitted women to take degrees. However, it was not until 1883 that Owens agreed to admit women students, and in doing so, it incorporated the College for Women, which was reconstituted as the Department for Women. The Department was established for an experimental period of five years. Students would still study, initially, at their premises in Brunswick Street, until they had passed the University's preliminary examination. After this, however, they would be permitted to join classes alongside the male students, and present themselves for examinations. Initially they were only admitted to courses in arts; the first science degree was not awarded to a woman until 1889, and it was not until 1900 that the first women were admitted to study medicine. Queen Victoria, however, demonstrated her support for the admission of women in 1893, by making a donation of £2,000 'towards the purchase of a site for the Women's Department'.

The Department for Women provided pastoral and social facilities for women students as well as academic. It was headed by a tutor, Edith C.Wilson, appointed in 1883 and who remained in post until 1905. At that point the Department for Women ceased to exist as a separate entity, and the post of Tutor (later Adviser) to Women Students was established instead. The post of Adviser was part time, and was always held by a female member of the teaching staff. The Adviser offered pastoral support to female students, beginning with an initial interview during Freshers’ Week, and then by being available, by appointment, throughout the year. Former students also kept in contact, sometimes for many years after graduation, requesting advice and job references. Often potential students were encouraged to make contact with her, and advice and support regarding scholarships was provided.

The Adviser was also very active on University committees, especially those which affected women students; by 1963 the post-holder was a member of 40 committees, and an assistant (also part-time) was appointed in order to share her workload. The Adviser worked closely with Women's Union, and with the halls of residence for women.

The post of Adviser to Women Students continued in existence until the mid-1970s. Thereafter, pastoral and counselling services were undertaken by the Academic Advisory Committee.


Arranged chronologically unless otherwise stated.

The collection is arranged into series as follows:

  • AWS/1 Rooms Committee minutes
  • AWS/2 Adviser's general files
  • AWS/3 Scholarships
  • AWS/4 Photographs
  • AWS/5 Student Records
  • AWS/6 Department for Women records
  • AWS/7 Miscellaneous

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals.

Acquisition Information

Transferred by the Academic Advisory Services in 2008. The scrapbook (AWS/6/1) was donated by Edith Wilson to the Library in the 1930s.

Conditions Governing Use

The archive is owned by the University of Manchester.

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The records of the Department for Women were transferred to the Adviser to Women Students and subsequently were transferred to the University's Academic Advisory Services, when it took over pastoral and counselling roles for all students.


No accruals expected.

Related Material

See also the Archives of the Manchester College for Women, (MCW) and the Women Students' Debating Society Archive (WDS). Papers relating to the appointment of Edith Wilson as Tutor, in 1883, are preserved in the Owens College Archive (OCA/19/39), as are papers from 1884 relating to the issue the of women's eligibility for College scholarships (OCA/20/4). The Deed of Trust confirming Queen Victoria's donation, in 1893, to the new premises for women students, is preserved in Box 6 of the University Agreements collection. The Minutes of the Women's Union from 1900-1967 have survived (SUA/1/3) as have its Handbooks from 1939/40-1956-7 (SUA/3). For more general information on accommodation at the University, the minutes of the Lodgings Committee (USC/23) and the Accommodation Committee (USC/22) .


Mabel Tylecote, The education of women at Manchester University, 1883-1933 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1941).  remains the standard study for women students at Manchester. Alex Robertson, "Manchester , Owens College and the higher education of women : 'A large hole for the cat and a small one for the kitten'" Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester Vol.77.1 Spring 1995, pp.201-220 is valuable on the background to the entry of women to Owens College. More generally, see Carol Dyhouse, No distinction of sex? : women in British universities, 1870-1939 (London 1995) , the best general guide to women's higher education in this period, and Jane Robinson, Bluestockings: the remarkable story of the first women to fight for an education (London 2010) .

Geographical Names