University of Manchester Registrar's Archive

Scope and Content

The Registrar's archive comprises only the files of the Registrar and Secretary, and does not include any records of the administrative units for which the Registrar ultimately had responsibility.

The Registrar's office did not have a formal file registry, and no original inventory of files appears to have been kept, so it is impossible to say how extensive this series originally was, but it seems likely that only a small proportion of files were made available for assessment as archives. The file series is complementary to the Vice-Chancellor's files series (VCA/7), which were maintained in a more formal manner. It is often the case that subjects in both series overlapped, and in general where this has happened, the vice-chancellor's files contain more extensive and better quality information about the subject in hand. This being the case, where the same subject file existed in both series, only the vice-chancellor's file has been retained. The remaining Registrar's files which have been preserved therefore fell into the following categories: 1) unique to the Registrar's file series; 2) provided substantial additional information to the corresponding vice-chancellor's file. In some cases, subject areas were specific to the remit of the Registrar's Department and were not present in the Vice-Chancellor's series, and in other cases, it appears that a comparable vice-chancellor's file has not survived.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Registrar and Secretary was a senior administrative officer of the University of Manchester. A Registrar was first appointed by Owens College in 1867 (replacing the post of clerk and librarian). In 1903, when the University of Manchester became independent, the post of Registrar and Secretary was recognised in the University's charter.

The office of Registrar had general responsibility for general and academic administration. It co-existed with the office of Bursar, which was responsible for financial and estates administration; the posts were of equal status (the office of Bursar was abolished in 1984).

In the second half of the 20th century, the Registrar's Department grew rapidly in size. In this period, the Registrar's Office was responsible for providing the following services: secretarial support for the University's governing bodies, sessional committees and Faculty Boards; administration of recruitment and personnel matters; student services, including awards and scholarships, admissions, examinations, and degree awards; student records; schools liaison; international recruitment; some areas of resource allocation and planning, (the Registrar was secretary of the Joint Committee on University Development); student accommodation; alumni relations; staff training; University publications such as the calendar, prospectuses, and annual reports; and some areas of liaison with higher education bodies such as UGC/UFC/HEFCE, CVCP and the research councils. The Registrar was also secretary to the University Council.

In 1994 a unified administrative system was introduced at the University, which brought the Directorates of Finance, Personnel, and Estates, the Office of the Academic Registrar, the International Unit, Research Support Unit, and Strategic Policy and Planning Unit under the direct control of the Registrar and Secretary. Certain other units such as the Communications Office and Health and Safety Services also reported to the Registrar. The new office of Academic Registrar largely took over areas which had traditionally been conducted by the Registrar's Department (e.g. servicing of governing bodies, student services). This system of administration remained in place until the creation of the new University of Manchester in 2004.

University of Manchester Registrars, 1903-2004 

  • Edward Fiddes, 1903-1920
  • Norman Smith, 1920-1945
  • William Mansfield Cooper, 1945-1951
  • Vincent Knowles, 1951-1979
  • Kenneth Kitchen, 1979-1994
  • Edward Newcomb, 1994-2004

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated.

This finding aid contains personal data about living individuals. Under the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), The Library holds the right to process such personal data for archiving and research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the Library has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately.

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 Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Appraisal Information

The archive has been extensively appraised. Appraisal report available.

Custodial History

The Registrar's files were retained in the Registrar's department until transferred to the University Archives. An initial deposit was made in the 1970s and a major accession of material was made in 2004.


Accruals are possible, but none currently scheduled.

Related Material

The Vice-Chancellor's files are the major source of information on the general administration of the University (VCA). The Bursar's archive deals with the corresponding areas of financial administration (UMB) until the early 1980s.

Geographical Names