University of Manchester Students' Union

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University of Manchester Students' Union
Institution The University of Manchester
Location Steve Biko Building, Oxford Road, Manchester, England
Established 2004
(after merger of USA and UMU)
Members c. 42,000
Affiliations National Union of Students, Aldwych Group

The University of Manchester Students' Union is the representative body of students at the University of Manchester, England, and is the UK's largest students' union. It was formed out of the merger between UMIST Students' Association (USA) and University of Manchester Union (UMU) when the parent organisations (UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester) merged on 1 October 2004.

It does not have a president, but is instead run by an 8-member executive team who share joint responsibility.[1]

Governance and decision making[edit]

Executive Team[edit]

The current University of Manchester Students' Union Exec Team contains eight full-time sabbatical officers. All have their own areas of responsibility, but share joint responsibility as trustees of the Students' Union. Any student can stand to be an elected member of the Exec Team in the student elections that take place in March. All students are eligible to vote in these elections on-line. The current roles are as follows:

  • Activities and Development
  • Campaigns and Citizenship
  • Community
  • Diversity
  • Education
  • General Secretary
  • Wellbeing
  • Women's


Steve Biko Building[edit]

The Steve Biko Building (often referred to simply as the Biko Building, or Students' Union) is the Union's primary building and the home of its administrative offices. The building went under major redevelopment in 2012 which included a renovation of the foyer and meeting rooms, the addition of the new Café[2] and the introduction of a new store and sandwich shop. The building also contains a hairdressers and a print shop. The building is named after anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.

In October 2012, the University announced that it would be awarding £4 million to the Students' Union in order to make further building improvements.[3] This is likely to involve the construction of another floor on the Steve Biko building and should be completed by 2018.

Barnes Wallis Building[edit]

The Barnes Wallis Building, named after Barnes Wallis, is situated on the former UMIST Campus (now North Campus). It originally contained the offices for the UMIST Students'Association. Unlike in the Biko building, the Students' Union does not occupy the whole building but has facilities on the ground floor. In 2013, the Union withdrew from these premises as part of the University of Manchester's Campus Masterplan.

The Manchester Academy

Manchester Academy[edit]

Manchester Academy refers to the University of Manchester Students' Union's four concert venues. They are situated on Oxford Road both within and adjacent to the Biko building. 'Manchester Academy' was originally the name of the largest of these venues (see picture), but became an umbrella term for both itself and the Union's other venues in 2003. It has hosted such big names as Ian Brown, Muse, Prince, Kylie Minogue, The Stranglers, Super Furry Animals, Deftones, Pink Floyd, The Cure, The Coral, Blur, Oasis, George Clinton, Nirvana, Manic Street Preachers, The Libertines, The Ramones, Billy Talent, Fightstar, Lost Prophets, Babyshambles, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Supergrass, It Bites and Death Cab for Cutie.

Student activities[edit]

There are many student-run activities which involve thousands of students in various roles including media, community volunteering fundraising for charity and over 250 societies.

Pangaea Festival[edit]

University of Manchester Students' Union is notable for regularly organising and hosting what is reportedly the largest student-led festival in Europe, Pangaea Festival. This is a triannual event where approximately 6000 students are invited to the Students' Union to enjoy a multi-venue music and arts night utilising rooms throughout the Steve Biko Building and the adjacent Manchester Academy 1 building, to mark the end of most University of Manchester undergraduate exams and a special 'Freshers' edition in September.[4]

The Mancunion[edit]

The Mancunion is the University of Manchester's Students' Union's newspaper. It is distributed across the city and has a readership of 20,000. The current Editor-in-chief is Charlie Spargo, the Deputy Editor-in-chief is Marcus Johns, and it has an Editorial Team of around 30 volunteers. The paper has widespread circulation within the Greater Manchester student community and it is believed to have the largest circulation of a student paper in the United Kingdom.[5]

In the past the newspaper has drawn national press coverage, particularly when a secret recording was made of a University of Manchester society in which it was suggested that the Islamist speaker agreed that homosexuals in Britain should be put to death.[6] The publication drew media attention because of both the sensitive matter reported and the use of undercover investigative journalism to obtain the story. Also, when The Sun (United Kingdom) newspaper contacted Student Media outlets asking for photos of students dressed up in offensive costumes at Halloween, the newspaper also reported on this, drawing attention from national media again.[7]

Student Action[edit]

Student Action is a community volunteering project that sends student volunteers out to work in the local community. In 2010, there were over 2500 active volunteers working anything from 20–300 hours over the year.[8]

Manchester RAG[edit]

Manchester RAG is the official fundraising arm of the University of Manchester Students' Union. It is responsible for helping facilitate the fundraising activities of all students in Manchester, and in doing so promoting the personal development of students. Last year Manchester RAG helped University of Manchester students raise £190,000 for a variety of charities, ranging from small community based charities in the North West, to large international development organisations.[9] The vast majority of funds raised come from the many events that Manchester RAG organise throughout the year. Popular events include Jailbreak,[10] a sponsored hitch where participants have to get as far away from Manchester without spending a penny in 30 hours, Bogle, a 55-mile walk around greater Manchester, and Beerfest, a three-day student run beer festival which attracts over 1500 students annually. RAG also runs many 'challenge' events such as sponsored expeditions to Mt Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp and the Great Wall of China. All fundraising is conducted by hundreds of student volunteers, and the organisation of RAG is run primarily by a committee of students who volunteer their time in addition to their studies.

Fuse FM[edit]

Fuse FM is University of Manchester Students' Union radio station. The Student Union Executive accepted the a proposal to create the station in July 2000 and work began on creating a base for the station, which was originally called MintFM. Space in the Union basement was originally converted into a fully functioning broadcast studio and production suite. Fuse FM went on air for the first time on 15 February 2001 at 06:00, broadcasting on 106.2 FM as well as via internet streaming. Since 2003, Fuse FM has broadcast for four weeks in each academic semester.[11] Fuse Fm was briefly denied its Spring 2008 licence to broadcast, due to the startup of community radio station RockTalk. However RockTalk collapsed in late 2007 and Ofcom granted a licence for FuseFM's 16th Broadcast.[12]

In September 2011, Fuse FM went online only broadcasting throughout the university term time. And on 29 April 2012 began broadcasting from new state of the art studios on the first floor of the Steve Biko building after generous funding from the Manchester Learning Enrichment Fund and donation of equipment from the BBC.

Fuse has a history of high quality student broadcasting and its DJs have won awards in the past three National Student Radio Awards. In 2007 Becca Day-Preston won the Bronze Prize for Female Presenter of the Year, Andrew Jackson won Male Presenter of the Year in 2006, while Minnie Stephenson claimed the Female Presenter of the Year award in 2005.[13][14][15]


There are many clubs and societies operating within the Union and the University. Common areas include sports, hobbies, politics and religion. Sports societies are not operated by the Union but rather by the University itself through the Athletics Union. There are several fairs during the freshers period in which various clubs and societies promote themselves.

There are a wide range of religious societies and places of worship within the University. A religions fair is held too, where information is distributed about the different societies. There are large Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Bahá'í societies which hold regular events and meetings.

Most of the large subjects have their own society, which generally represents the interests of students in that subject as well as offering advice and support to students and arranging socials. Examples include the BA Econ Society, the History Society and Faculty of Life Sciences Society.

The University also has a strong Drama tradition and former students include Meera Syal, Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall and Ben Elton. The Drama Society holds a yearly drama festival, involving 13 plays in five theatres and over 120 students, as well as coordinating several independent student-run productions. The Fringe Society in 2006 took twelve plays and over 70 students to the Edinburgh Fringe festival under the company name "Johnny Miller Presents". The company was awarded a ThreeWeeks Editors' Award, which honours the most talked about and exciting people and companies at the festival.[16]

Manchester Debating Union[edit]

The Manchester Debating Union (MDU) is a debating society;,[17] membership of which is also open to people from other higher education institutions in Manchester, including Manchester Metropolitan University. The MDU was founded in 1996 and is modelled on other similar university debating societies in the UK. The Union organises the participation of Manchester students in intervarsity debating competitions, as well as arranging public debates and hosting its own competitions at both university and school levels.[18]

The MDU was placed 5th in's 2008/2009 European university debate rankings.[19]

The MDU holds regular public debates on Thursdays during University semesters. In the past these have included politicians such as Robert Griffiths[20] George Galloway MP, Lembit Opik MP, Tony Lloyd MP and Sir Richard Leese, as well as various notable experts, academics and campaigners. The MDU also trains its members for participation in competitive debating. Regular practice debates are held on Tuesdays and occasional master classes in issues such as international politics and specific aspects of debating are also held.

As well as the regular public debates, MDU holds 3 competitions throughout the year: one intervarsity, one national schools competition, and one local schools competition. As part of their local schools competition MDU members provide debating training to comprehensive schools within the Greater Manchester Area.

In the summer of 2013 the Manchester Debating Union hosted the European Universities Debating Championships, the largest student conference in Europe and second largest debating competition in the world.

Notable campaigns and issues[edit]

Twinning with a Palestinian University[edit]

University of Manchester Students' Union is twinned with An Najah University, Nablus, Palestine. A motion to enact the twinning was passed in a General Meeting in March 2007. The meeting was attended by over 600 students and the motion was passed by a majority of over 50 votes[21][22]

In November 2007 a motion was proposed in the general meeting. It resolved to freeze the University of Manchester students' Union's association with Al Najah University whilst awaiting a statement "denouncing terror and disassociating it from all terrorist organisations".[23]

An-Najah responded to the motion with a full statement written by the Right to Education campaign. An-Najah rejected the motion and all the accusations: "Neither the University nor its Student Council is a terrorist organisation, and the implication that they are is insulting." They added that the motion is: "defamatory because it repeatedly implies that ANU and its Student Council promotes, facilitates or has links with terrorism."[24]

An amendment was put forward by the "protect our twinning campaign". The amendment resolved to accept the invitation made by An-Najah University for an olive tree from the university to be planted on campus at Manchester as a gesture of peace and as a symbol of life, rather than requiring An Najah to accept the statement denouncing terrorism.[25]

This amendment passed with almost a two-thirds majority of the attendance of over 1100 students.[26]

The twinning would have ended in March 2010, in accordance with University of Manchester Students’ Union Bye-Laws;[27] however the sign was renewed by a decision of the executive team and remained. In October 2014, a motion was brought to the Students' Union to renew the sign and the twinning motion for an additional 3 years, and the idea went to referendum. Votes were 693 in favor and 204 against.[28] However, a legal challenge was brought to the Students' Union about the nature of the twinning motion and the sign itself, and the Students' Union responded by removing the large sign in March 2015.[29]

Famous former officers[edit]


  1. ^ University of Manchester Students' Union
  2. ^ University of Manchester Students' Union
  3. ^ Manchester 2020 Vision leads to £1 billion campus Master Plan | The University of Manchester
  4. ^ Pangaea Festival
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Student Action | Manchester Student Volunteering Opportunities | Blog
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Jailbreak Website". Jailbreak Website. 
  11. ^ Fuse FM Manchester Student Radio
  12. ^ Fuse FM to Return to the Airwaves, Student Direct
  13. ^ Student Radio Awards - 2005 - Winners Archived 18 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ The Student Radio Awards - 2006 - Winners Archived 9 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Student Radio Awards 2007 - Winners Archived 19 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "The ThreeWeeks Editors Awards 2006". Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 2006-08-28. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  17. ^ University of Manchester Students' Union List of Societies Archived 13 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ The Manchester Debating Union
  19. ^ British Debate | Universities | Rankings Archived 1 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ “Never take financial advice from someone who has less money than you.” | The Tab Manchester
  21. ^ "Policy passed at General Meeting, 7 March 2007: Palestine and the Right to Education" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 July 2011. 
  22. ^ "The Muslim News: UK Universities twinning with Palestinian ones". Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. 
  23. ^ "Policy defeated at General Meeting, 14 Nov 2007" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2011. 
  24. ^ "Al Najah Responds to Motion-1". Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. 
  25. ^ "Policy passed at General Meeting, 14 Nov 2007: Peace Through Education" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2011. 
  26. ^ "An Olive Tree for Solidarity". Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. 
  27. ^ "University of Manchester Students’ Union Bye-Laws" (PDF). 
  28. ^
  29. ^

External links[edit]