Faculty organization was introduced in 1903 with the creation of the independent University of Manchester. The general functions of the Faculties were set out in the University charter of 1903, while specific powers and responsibilities were determined by ordinances of the University. Faculties were essentially groups of academic departments in related areas, which worked together over admissions, curricula and examinations. Initially, there were five faculties: arts, science, law, music and medicine. They were joined by theology and commerce in late 1903, technology in 1905 (for the university courses of the Manchester College of Technology), and education in 1914.
Each faculty was headed by a dean, who chaired a faculty board, composed of all academic members of faculty above the level of assistant lecturer. Faculty boards could recommend to Senate regulations for courses of study and the appointment of examiners. Faculty bureaucracy became more complex over time, with a number of standing committees being created. By the 1990s, these might typically include a library committee, a computing committee, a staff-student consultative committee, respective committees for postgraduate and undergraduate degrees, a research committee, and a dean's advisory committee. In the late 1960s faculty development sub-committees were established to oversee financial management within the faculties, particularly over staff appointments; these committees reported to the Joint Committee on University Development (JCUD), a University-wide committee, rather than to the Faculty Boards.
The Faculty of Commerce was established in 1903 to oversee the subjects of economics, commerce and industrial administration. The Faculty had been established with the assistance of the Manchester business community, which was keen to support subjects with practical application to local commercial life. A link was maintained with the business community through an advisory committee, which included businessmen, which supported the Faculty in its early years. One of the smaller faculties, it was known as the Faculty of Commerce from 1903-1920, and the Faculty of Commerce and Administration from 1920-1944. In June 1944 it was renamed the Faculty of Economic and Social Studies, to reflect the growing importance of the social sciences.
In 1904, the Faculty had just eleven students, but this figure had grown to several hundred in the 1950s. The main department in the Faculty before 1939 was economics, and the Faculty offered degrees of Bachelor of Arts (Commerce) and Bachelor of Arts in Administration, plus the masters equivalents of the same degrees. It offered certificates in administration and commerce, and a diploma in social study. The Faculty also taught courses for business bodies such as the Banker's Institute and the railway companies. Students in other faculties, especially arts and law, also took economics modules as part of their courses.
The Faculty greatly expanded in the post-1945 period, as politics and social sciences became increasingly important academic disciplines. New departments - government and administration, social anthropology, accountancy, social administration, sociology, decision theory and agricultural economics - were established. In 2000, the Faculty merged with that of Law to form the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law. This Faculty was disbanded on the creation of the new University of Manchester in October 2004, and a School of Social Sciences was established within the new Faculty of Humanities.