The earliest student society at Manchester dates to shortly after the foundation of Owens Collegein 1851, when a debating club was established. Since then societies have been established for arange of intellectual, social and cultural activities. Student societies have been subject to theoversight of the University and the Students Union; both have operated procedures by which societiesare officially recognized, and consequently can enjoy certain rights and privileges.
The University introduced its procedures for recognition in the early twentieth century;recognized societies were allowed to use University premises for meetings, and were authorised touse University noticeboards for their own purposes. Recognition was granted by the Vice-Chancellor'sOffice, after it was satisfied with a society's constitutional and financial arrangements. Societieswere required to meet two basic conditions: their objects had to include an academic element; andthe administration had to be in the hands of University members (not exclusively, but as thepredominant interest). Societies whose objectives constituted mainly "religious services orpolitical meetings for purposes of propaganda" would not generally achieve recognition. The Union'sprocedures, which permitted use of Union premises, and made societies eligible for small grants fromUnion funds, were similar in nature. Until 1968, the Union recognized societies only after they hadbeen recognized by the University. After 1968, the recognition processes were separated; in generaland with a few exceptions, any society recognised by the University was also recognized by theUnion, although the converse did not always apply.
Societies would apply for recognition by submitting draft constitutions for approval (in lateryears, a pro-forma constitution was devised). Recognition once granted was usually renewed for aslong as a Society existed. Not all clubs or societies applied for recognition, and informal groupsor societies with controversial objectives often did not pursue recognition, and hence will not berecorded in the files. Sporting clubs, which were affiliated to the Athletic Union, wereadministered according to its procedures. Recognition by the Vice-Chancellor did not apply tosocieties exclusively for members of UMIST, although UMIST students, as members of the Faculty ofTechnology, were eligible for membership of University of Manchester societies.