University of Manchester Department of Computer Science Archive

Scope and Content

Administrative records of the former Department of Computer Science. These comprise the major committee and related records created by the Department. In content, they are similar to those of other departmental archives. They are primarily files accumulated by Professor Tom Kilburn as head of the department from foundation in 1964 until his retirement in 1980. Later files have not been located as yet. The records deal with the main activities of the Department including development of the B.Sc. computing science degree, staff consultancies, the MU5 project, and relations with external bodies including the National Research Development Board, the Computer Board, and the University Grants Committee. There are also several files relating to the construction of the new Computer Building (now the Kilburn Building) which opened in 1972. The files collectively provide an interesting overview of the early development of one of the UK's largest and most important centres of academic computing.

In addition, an independent collection of documents relating to the Department forms part of the History of Computing Collection (NAHC/MUC). This collection focusses on the research work undertaken by University computer scientists since the 1940s. It includes unique and special documents relating to the development of computing machines. Inevitably, there is significant overlap between the two collections, and both would need to be consulted to gain a proper overview of the history of computing at the University. In some cases, documents in the MUC collection would be more properly located in the DCS archive. However, as they have formed part of the former collection for a long period of time, it has been decided not to reorganise the collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Department of Computer Science was established in 1964 as an independent department. Previously, computer science had been part of the Department of Electrical Engineering (formerly known as Elecro-Technics). The creation of the new department reflected the existing achievements of the University in computing, and the growing importance of the subject in the curriculum.

The new Department was headed by Tom Kilburn who had been at the forefront of academic computing at Manchester since the late 1940s. Chairs were later added for computer engineering (D B G Edwards ) and Computer Science (F H Sumner), followed by one in computer processing in 1972, to which Derrick Morris was appointed.

In 1965, the Department took in its first students to study for a new B.Sc. degree in computer science. In later years joint degrees with maths, physics and accounting were developed, and the Department also taught students from other disciplinary areas. By 1983/4, there were 226 single honours students, and 165 joint honours students in the department. The department also had a large number of research students.

Staff research interests varied widely; in its early years, the Department continued its traditional focus on the design and implementation of large scale computer systems, most notably the MU5 project. However, a growing amount of work was done on programming and computer applications. The Department enjoyed particularly strong relations with computer manufacturers, reflecting its early links with Ferranti, and later with ICL, and it was also increasingly involved in advising the private and public sectors on business applications of computing. In the 1980s, the Department hosted the Barclays Microprocessor Unit to study these applications.

In its early years, the Department was also responsible for the University's computing services. In 1969, this responsibility was transferred to a new Regional Computer Centre which provided academic computing services for the University and other North West universities. The Centre was separate from the Department, although there were close relations between the two (the Director of the RCC was a senior Departmental academic). This arrangement continued until 1987, when the RCC was replaced by the Manchester Computing Centre, which extended its remit to national-level computing services.

In 2004, the Department of Computer Sciences was succeeded by the School of Computer Sciences of the new University of Manchester. This School acquired some of the responsibilities of the School of Informatics, which was disbanded in 2007. More recently, it is once again known as the Department of Computer Sciences and is part of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.


Two series: 

  • DCS/1 - Committee minutes
  • DCS/2 - Administrative files
  • DCS/3 - Newsletters

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader unless otherwise stated. .

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes according to the provisions of the Act. In accordance with the DPA, UML 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.

Separated Material

A significant portion of Department's records form part of a separate collection within the History of Computing Collection (MUC and MUC additional). This artificial and composite collection includes material donated by former members of the Department which has direct relevance to the Department. In particular, this includes documents and grey literature relating to the Department's research work from the 1940s onwards. It also includes a subset of records relating to the ICL dispute during the 1970s. As part of the resolution of this dispute over intellectual property, the Department collected a large number of related document. These documents include some administrative records including Professor Kilburn's correspondence files from the 1950s (MUC/5/57-60), which are similar in content to some of the files in this archive. In addition, there are files concerning computing service income and the development of the Atlas and MU5 projects. Other subsets within this collection include personal papers of Tom Kilburn (MUC/7), Dai Edwards (MUC/8) and Simon Lavington (MUC/9), all former department members. The content of these papers range widely over the history of computing but refer to specific departmental matters as well. The MUC collections should therefore be considered as having material of equal value to the history of the Department.

Conditions Governing Use

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 Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The records were retained at the School of Computer Sciences until transferred to the University Archives on


Accruals possible.

Related Material

The Department's annual reports from 1965 to 1996 can be found in the Reports of Council to Court (UOP/2). The Vice-Chancellor's Archive also contains some useful files about the Department and its predecessors: Electrical Engineering, 1945-1966 (VCA/7/1061), Computer Science, 1965-1969, (VCA/7/1062), 1970-1979 (VCA/7/1063), 1980-1985 (VCA/7/860), 1985-1988 (VCA/7/1004) [access conditions may apply].


Simon H. Lavington, A History of Manchester Computers (Manchester: 1998).

Geographical Names