Convocation of the Victoria University and the Victoria University of Manchester Archive

Scope and Content

The archives comprises the main records of the Convocations of the Victoria University and the University of Manchester. These include the minutes of the annual meetings of Convocation 1880-1999 (CON/1), minutes of the Committee of Convocation 1880-2004 (CON/2), attendance registers 1880-1997 (CON/3) and registers of members (1880-1907) (CON/4). The latter were not maintained as a regular record, probably on account of the ever expanding size of the University's alumni. The records show no significant discontinuity at the point of transition from the Victoria University to the University of Manchester, and for this reason the archives of the two Convocations have been treated as an organic whole. The archive is substantially complete.

The minutes of the annual meetings provide basic reports of activities and events, and include documentation of associated social events. Some include reports of talks delivered to the meetings and reports of branches. Minutes of the managing committee are complete, and provide information on the organization of alumni policy, as well as on Convocation's relations with other University's governing bodies. There are a few miscellaneous documents including an informative paper by George Burkhardt, a former chairman of Convocation, on the history of this body (CON/5/3). The collection also includes some records of the Manchester branch of Convocation (CON/6).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Convocation of the University of Manchester was responsible for representing and promoting the interests of the University's alumni. Its declared objectives were: "to promote fellowship amongst the graduates, to assist in the maintenance of contacts between the graduates and the University, and to further the interests of the University". The Convocation had primarily a social function, but also contributed to the wider governance of the University by forming the constituency which elected the Chancellor, and it elected a proportion of the members of the University Court. Convocation had the right to express its views on any University matter it saw proper and to convey these views to the governing bodies.

A convocation was first established by the federal Victoria University in 1880. This acted as a forum for the alumni of Owens College, University College Liverpool and the Yorkshire College, Leeds. Its membership comprised the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, professorial staff and registered graduates of the University. Graduates were entitled to register three years after graduating. Convocation held annual general meetings, and its ordinary business was managed by a committee headed by a chairman, supported by the clerk of Convocation. The annual meetings were always held at Manchester, and Owens College graduates tended to dominate the body. Although the main aims of Convocation were social and convivial, there were occasions when meetings were used by alumni to express their views of wider policy issues within the University.

In 1903 the federal University was dissolved, and the newly independent University of Manchester established its own Convocation. This retained essentially the same arrangements as its predecessor; indeed, the records show no sharp disjuncture between the two bodies. As time went on Convocation provided more social events for members, introducing an autumn meeting as well as the spring general meeting. A number of regional branches were established to run local events, including: London, Yorkshire, North West, North Wales, East Midlands and Manchester itself.

In terms of powers, Convocation had the right to elect thirty members of Court, two of whom were nominated to sit on the University's Council. Under the terms of the University's Supplemental Charter 1973, Convocation, Assembly and Court formed the constituency which elected the Chancellor. The chairs of Convocation were frequently individuals deeply involved with University life including Mary Tout (first female chair in 1920-22), Mabel Tylecote (chair 1954-6), Leonard Behrens (chair 1932-33) and Sir Christopher Needham (chair 1911-1914) [lists of the chairs of Convocation can be found in the later minute books of Committee CON/2/6-7].

In 2004 the Convocation was dissolved on the creation of the new University of Manchester, whereupon a new Alumni Association was created to look after the interests of the University's alumni. The assets of Convocation were transferred to a trust fund to be used for the benefit of this new Association.


The archive is arranged into the following series:

  • CON/1 - minutes of the annual general meetings
  • CON/2 - minutes of the Committee of Convocation
  • CON/3 - attendance registers
  • CON/4 - members registers
  • CON/5 - miscellaneous documents
  • CON/6 - records of the Manchester branch of Convocation

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the University Archives by the Clerk of Convocation and Development and Alumni Relations Office at various dates between 1981-2007.

Conditions Governing Use

The archive is owned by The University of Manchester.

Photocopies, scans and photographic copies can be supplied for private study and research 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, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.


No further accruals expected.

Related Material

The powers and responsibilities of Convocation as determined by the University charter and statutes can be found in the annual calendars. The minutes of Court and Council will have occasional references to governance matters affecting Convocation e.g. election of the Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor's Archive has a file on Convocation, 1940-1951, (VCA/7/222).