Vice-Chancellor's Student Societies Files

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Student society files compiled by the Vice-Chancellor's Office in relation to the official recognition of University societies, dating from the 1910s to the early twenty first century.

The files typically comprise standard documentation, mainly copies of constitutions, on which recognition was based, and correspondence relating to foundation and initial recognition of the society, amendments to names, constitutional and financial arrangements. In few cases, files include copies of society syllabuses, handbooks, and details of social events. Most societies represented in this collection were recognized by the University, but a small number were not, and correspondence may reveal the reasons for non-recognition.

The archive provides a valuable source of basic information about the history of a significant number of University societies; this is of particular value, as the records of the great majority of University student societies have not survived. Overall, the files provide interesting sidelights in the development and diversity of student social life at Manchester during the twentieth century.

Administrative / Biographical History

The earliest student society at Manchester dates to shortly after the foundation of Owens College in 1851, when a debating club was established. Since then societies have been established for a range of intellectual, social and cultural activities. Student societies have been subject to the oversight of the University and the Students Union; both have operated procedures by which societies are 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 to use University noticeboards for their own purposes. Recognition was granted by the Vice-Chancellor's Office, after it was satisfied with a society's constitutional and financial arrangements. Societies were required to meet two basic conditions: their objects had to include an academic element; and the administration had to be in the hands of University members (not exclusively, but as the predominant interest). Societies whose objectives constituted mainly "religious services or political meetings for purposes of propaganda" would not generally achieve recognition. The Union's procedures, which permitted use of Union premises, and made societies eligible for small grants from Union funds, were similar in nature. Until 1968, the Union recognized societies only after they had been recognized by the University. After 1968, the recognition processes were separated; in general and with a few exceptions, any society recognised by the University was also recognized by the Union, although the converse did not always apply.

Societies would apply for recognition by submitting draft constitutions for approval (in later years, a pro-forma constitution was devised). Recognition once granted was usually renewed for as long as a Society existed. Not all clubs or societies applied for recognition, and informal groups or societies with controversial objectives often did not pursue recognition, and hence will not be recorded in the files. Sporting clubs, which were affiliated to the Athletic Union, were administered according to its procedures. Recognition by the Vice-Chancellor did not apply to societies exclusively for members of UMIST, although UMIST students, as members of the Faculty of Technology, were eligible for membership of University of Manchester societies.


Files arranged alphabetically.

Conditions Governing Access

The files are open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL 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.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the University Archives by the Vice-Chancellor's Office in 2006.

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 University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


No accruals expected.

Related Material

A file in the Vice-Chancellor's Archive (VCA/7/284) includes material on a number of recognized and non-recognized societies from the inter-war and post-war periods including the Marxist Society, Zionist Society, Ethical Society, Anti War Group, Stage Society, Walking Club, Peace Pledge Union Group, Fascist Association, Indian Association, Ex-Service Students Association, Choral Society and Ballet Club. The Students Union archive (SUA) includes information on the parallel process of recognition of societies by the Union. The Union's annual handbooks will also include lists of societies recognised by the Union. The University Publications Collection contains a number of magazines produced by Student societies (UMP).

Regrettably, it appears that the records of many student societies have not survived, and the University Archives consequently has the archives of only a small number of societies. These include: the Biological Society (UBS), Engineering Society (UES), Chemical Society (DCH/4), Architectural and Town Planning Student Society (MAS), Music Society (UMC), the Medical Colloquium (MMC/5/7/14), the Medical Students Representative Council, (MMC/5/9/1), and the Medical Students Debating Society (MMC/5/9/2) .

Geographical Names