The Council was the chief executive and financial body of the Victoria University of the Manchester, and the custodian of its Common Seal. Council was described in 2000 as "the University's Governing Body and (it) carries ultimate responsibility for its overall strategic direction and future development, and for the management of its finances, property and affairs generally" ("The Role of Council as Governing Body", endorsed by Council 11 October 2000). Council was ultimately responsible for the overall management of the University's administration, staff, finances, audit and estates.
Council was empowered "to exercise all the powers and discretions of the University" except where these are exercised by Court or Senate, and it had powers to make, amend, and repeal University Ordinances and Regulations. It was ultimately responsible for the appointment of most senior officers of the University. As part of its financial responsibilities, Council submitted an annual statement of accounts and report to the Court of the University.
The Council was instituted by the 1903 charter of Victoria University of Manchester. Under the terms of the 1973 Supplemental Charter the University had a membership of thirty, with a built-in majority of lay members. Its membership consisted of the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, the Principal of UMIST, officers of the Student Union, fifteen members of Court, one of whom was appointed from the Manchester City Council members, and two from Convocation, eight members of Senate (four professorial) and three members of Court elected by the Assembly. The officers of the Council (chair, deputy chairs and treasurer) were appointed by the lay members. Council was responsible for a number of sessional committees over the years, either directly or jointly with Senate and latterly, two standing sub-committees, Audit and Remuneration. In its early years, Council would meet up to fortnightly during the academic session, but in the late twentieth century Council usually met at least three times per academic session.
Meetings of Council were chaired by the chairman of Council. The chairmen of Council of the University of Manchester were:
- Sir Frank Forbes Adam, 1904-1924
- Arthur Henry Worthington 1924-1934
- Sir Christopher Needham, 1934-1941
- Ernest Simon, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, 1941-1957
- Sir Raymond Streat, 1957-1965
- Alan Vyvyan Symons, 1965-1972
- Sir George Kenyon, 1972-1980
- Norman Quick, 1980-1983
- Donald Kirkman Redford, 1983-1987
- Sir John Zochonis, 1987-1990
- Christopher George Kenyon, 1990-2000
- Rodger Pannone, 2000-2004
Council was dissolved in 2004, and its responsibilities were transferred to the Board of Governors of the new University of Manchester.