Documents relating to the campaign for an independent university and creation of the Victoria University.

  • Reference
      GB 133 OCA/23
  • Dates of Creation
      1875-1880
  • Physical Description
      39 items

Scope and Content

The series includes documents issued by Owens College proposing a university of Manchester (including the Morgan and Greenwood et al. pamphlets (OCA/23/1, 2, 4), notices of public support (OCA/23/3, 5 & 10), draft constitutions, memorials in support of the university, the scheme for the Victoria University (OCA/23/34-38) including draft and confirmed copies of the charter.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the mid-1870s, Owens College launched a campaign for a university charter. University status would have allowed the College to award its own degrees and have full control of its curriculum. Most degrees awarded to Owens students in this period were from the University of London, and this was considered to be an inflexible arrangement. University status was seen by College academics as the logical conclusion of the Extension movement. In 1876, four College academics, Greenwood, Ward, Roscoe and J E Morgan (professor of medicine) began lobbying for support for a University charter, consulting with senior figures in academic and public life. Morgan had previously written a pamphlet criticising the paucity of medical students graduating from English universities, and proposing that colleges such as Owens award degrees. The proposal won considerable support from such figures as Matthew Arnold (Ward's cousin), E A Freeman, and Mark Pattison, but there was also opposition from London University's supporters, and those who feared new universities would provoke a competitive degradation of academic credentials.

The College Court thereupon appointed a committee to develop the proposal, whose members included Thomas Ashton, R.C. Christie, Alfred Neild, plus Greenwood, Roscoe and Ward. By early 1877 a draft constitution had been drawn up, and in July 1877, the College and its supporters submitted a memorial to the Lord President of the Council requesting the Privy Council support Owens' request for a charter. The memorial led to opposition from Yorkshire College, Leeds (established in 1870), which feared that a University of Manchester would stifle its own development. Yorkshire countered by arguing that a new university in the North of England should not be tied to a locality, but should be a federal arrangement. In turn, Owens College responded by proposing the University of Manchester could affiliate other Northern colleges, to make their students eligible for Manchester degrees. This too was rejected by Yorkshire College, and in July 1878 a conference was held in London presided over by the Duke of Devonshire to resolve the dispute. This agreed in principle that a federal university be granted a charter, although Owens continued to insist that Manchester to be included in its title. In April 1879, the Owens special committee presented a report to Owens Court, after agreement had been reached with Yorkshire College on the form of the federal university . Owens was to be the first member of the new University and its President and Principal would become the first chancellor and vice-chancellor of the university. The new university was also required to be located in Manchester, but Manchester would not be recognized in its title. Academic government would be in the hands of a board of studies, made up of academics from the member colleges plus external examiners. On the basis of this agreement, the Victoria University was granted its charter in 1880, with Owens as its first constituent member.

Related Material

The records of the Victoria University form a separate collection (FVU) in the University Archives.