The Owens College Engineering Society was established in 1883. Engineering had been taught at the College since 1868, when Osborne Reynolds was appointed to the chair of engineering, and by the 1880s the subject was well established. The Society changed its name to the Manchester University Engineering Society in 1903.
The Society acted as a forum for engineering staff and students to discuss matters of common interest. Its objectives were described as "the discussion of subjects bearing upon Engineering and the applied sciences, and the promotion of a friendly intercourse between its members" (Rules of the Society, 1934). The Society was governed by a committee which included a chairman, secretary and treasurer. The Society was officially headed by a president, the professor of engineering; in later years, this position alternated between the professors of engineering and electrical engineering. In its early years, the professors of geology and physics served as vice-presidents. Membership includes academics, students and (at least in its early years) local engineers in private practice .
The Society's main activities were the presentation of papers at meetings, and visits to local engineering firms. The Society offered a silver medal for the best papers delivered by student members. In later years the Society published a magazine, The Manchester University Engineering Society Magazine. Faculty of Technology staff and students in engineering subjects [i.e. those based at the Manchester Municipal College of Technology/UMIST] do not appear to have been particularly active in the Society. The Society continued to be active into the late twentieth century.