The University of Manchester is the UK’s largest single site University, with a campus spanning 229 buildings all across the city!
With over 200 years of history behind our institution, you can imagine that there have been many changes to the look and feel of our campus over the years. Many of the University’s historic buildings, such as the Whitworth Hall and John Owens Building, have been a permanent symbol of our built heritage for over 150 years. However, many other buildings that alumni may remember from their time here, such as the once looming Maths Tower, have since come and gone.
To keep pace with the fast moving city around us and to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities and student body, upgrades to our buildings and facilities are essential. That’s why the University recently reached the end of an ambitious campus masterplan, which saw £1 billion invested over ten years, to create a world-class campus for students and staff.
For alumni of UMIST who remember our North Campus, including the Sackville Street Building, this area will also soon undergo a huge transformation. Plans are currently underway for a new £1.5 billion Innovation District in Manchester City Centre to be called ID Manchester.
This means that the University might looks very different to students today, compared to those who studied here just ten years ago. And there are more changes still to come!
To show you, our alumni, just how much has changed, we asked four of our students to take us on a tour. Ella, Hamza, Haris and Aminat are all studying at Manchester with a scholarship, funded by our generous community of alumni and donors. You can read more about their personal stories here, or make a gift to support the next generation here.
Below they have shared their favourite places and buildings on campus, as well as details of their history and archive pictures to show the difference between past and present!
You can also navigate to each story using the links below:
The ‘Old Quad’
by Ella, LLB (Hons) Bachelor of Law
‘The Old Quad’, which sits at the centre of the University campus on Oxford Road, was completed in 1902 and designed by Alfred Waterhouse. This internal courtyard is surrounded by the Whitworth Hall, the John Owens Building, The Christie and Beyer Buildings.
This is one of my favourite areas and it hasn’t changed too much since its completion over a hundred years ago. I believe this is one of the reasons I adore it so much, there is so much history in the walls and the architecture is absolutely stunning. Although other modern buildings at the University are beautiful in their own rights, I tend to gravitate more towards the architecture of the past.
One of the biggest differences I think is apparent from between then and now, is how much busier it seems on Oxford Road. So many University students running to lectures and workshops, going to meet up with friends or study in a café perhaps. The street is constantly overflowing with students, which can be overwhelming sometimes.
by Hamza, BSc (Hons) Computer Science with Industrial Experience
Opened in April 2008, University Place is a very prominent building constructed on Oxford Road next to the Kilburn Building. At the time of opening the building hosted the largest dedicated lecture theater in the whole of Greater Manchester. It was, and still is ideal for conferences and high-profile events.
Before the opening of University Place, the building which stood on this site was the tall Maths tower. The Maths tower existed from 1968 to 2004, and was home to the Maths department for decades. At 18 storeys and 75 metres tall, it was a true landmark of the South Campus. The building design blended the features of both brutalism and modernism, popular in the 1960s, and featured a podium with three levels and two distinct facades.
After the tower was demolished, the Maths department was relocated to the new Alan Turing building located on Upper Brook street. Located behind University Place, It houses the School of Mathematics, the Photon Science Institute and the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. The design of the Alan Turing Building incorporated input from numerous members of the department’s faculty and students.
by Haris, BDS Dentistry
Manchester Museum is located on Oxford Road and was recently reopened in February 2023, after undergoing a £15 million redevelopment project. The museum is laid out wonderfully, with floors dedicated to specific exhibits suited for all ages. Everything is presented with background information about the period of time the artefacts originated, including simple and digestible descriptions of historic events that took place. Some examples of exhibits include archaeology, natural history and Egyptian history. There are also two brand new galleries recently opened, the South Asia Gallery and Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery. It also has several interesting collections of skeletons, fossils, specimens and minerals. My personal favourite is the Museum’s iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex ‘Stan’, acquired in 2004. Looking at the skeleton takes you back in time and helps you to visualise what dinosaurs would have been like back then.
The Alliance Manchester Business School
by Hamza, BSc (Hons) Computer Science with Industrial Experience
In recent years, the building which houses the Manchester Business School has undergone a major transformation, emerging most recently as the Alliance Manchester Business School after major redevelopment – a modern and innovative centre of learning and research in business and management. The building which sits west of Oxford Road, and was once connected via footbridge to buildings in the east, was first completed in the 1970s. As part of the University’s campus masterplan, this building underwent renovations and refurbishments in 2018, and in recognition of a significant donation towards redevelopment from Lord Alliance, was renamed the Alliance Manchester Business School.
The building was reimagined and redesigned to reflect a fresh and dynamic approach to business education. Located on Booth Street West, the new building contains six floors, and features a range of cutting-edge facilities, including a behavioural lab, a financial markets lab, a data analytics lab, and a Bloomberg trading room. The building is designed to be sustainable and energy-efficient, with features such as a green roof, a rainwater harvesting system, and solar panels.
The Students’ Union
by Aminat, LLB (Hons) Law with Politics
The University of Manchester Students’ Union is a place for students to catch up with friends, study or grab a bite to eat, as well as being home to the Academy, where events and concerts are held. Most importantly, it is a representation of the student body and as we can see on the recent picture, the building is covered with flyers, posters and messages; all a result of the transparency and freedom of expression that is encouraged amongst students and an example of how they are able to voice their opinions.
The original Students’ Union for the University existed on the site of the current Alan Gilbert Building and was constructed in 1895 to house the Men’s Union and the Women’s Union. In 1957, the two Unions merged and a replacement building was opened on Oxford Road. The present home of the Students’ Union was designed by John Somerville Beaumont.
Out of all the buildings on campus, I would say that the student union is my comfort space. It has areas for study, socialising and opportunities to meet new people, including stalls of different things to interact with, such as vintage clothing, posters, plants and jewellery stores.
The Students’ Union is the representation of us students and this is captured quite well as there is something for everyone to do, from the dance studio to the Academy, which both host events and games nights. It is inclusive to everybody and this is an important feature of any university. Furthermore, it is always nice to catch up with my friends at the 532 bar, where I spend the majority of my free time.
The University Dental Hospital of Manchester
by Haris, BDS Dentistry
The University Dental Hospital of Manchester was completed in 1972. Founded in 1883, by 1887 the Hospital was treating over ten thousand patients per year. The clinical workload included primary care and oral surgery which both drastically increased over the coming years. Not only does this benefit patients, but the training of undergraduate and postgraduate dental students as well as students in dental nursing; hygiene and therapy which used to take place here and still does. Now around 90,000 patients per year, including adults and children, visit here to receive treatment. They currently provide a wide range of services including dental implants; orthodontics (braces); emergency dental clinic and much more. I hope to spend much more time in this building during my second year of study.
If you’d like to find out more about the history of some of our iconic buildings, you can find more information here. Or feel free to comment below with your own memories of campus!