University of Manchester Students' Union

University of Manchester Students' Union
InstitutionThe University of Manchester
LocationSteve Biko Building, Oxford Road, Manchester, England
(after merger of USA and UMU)
Membersc. 42,000
AffiliationsNational 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.

Governance and decision making

Executive Team

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
  • Liberation and Access
  • Welfare and Community
  • Postgraduate
  • Education
  • General Secretary
  • International
  • Women's


Steve Biko Building

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 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. This is likely to involve the construction of another floor on the Steve Biko building and should be completed by 2018.

Barnes Wallis Building

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

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

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

University of Manchester Students' Union is notable for regularly organising and hosting what is reportedly the largest student-led festival in Europe. 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.

The Mancunion

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.

Student Action

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 to 300 hours over the year.

Manchester RAG

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. The vast majority of funds raised come from the many events that Manchester RAG organise throughout the year. Popular events include Jailbreak, 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

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. 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.

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.


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 Baháʼí Faith 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.

Other academic societies combine leisure and learning to create events and to build a community of members interested in particular areas or subjects. These are the Molecular Networks Society, the UKSEDS Society, the Consulting Society, or the Astrobiology Society, to mention a few. In February 2021, the latter put together a panel of experts in Astrobiology for the event "Universal Dialogues", one of the biggest online events in the history of the University of Manchester, with over 700 attendees from all over the world. Richard Dawkins, Didier Queloz, Carol Cleland, David Duner, Philip Ball and Richard J. Roberts discussed together topics such as the definition and meaning of life, whether we are alone in the universe or not, or the social and cultural implications of encountering an extraterrestrial civilisation. The Astrobiology Society, founded just in August 2020, received in June 2021 the 'Society of the Year 2021 Award' from the UoM Students' Union, acknowledging all the work donde by its committee members and the achievements made over the year.

Notable campaigns and issues

Twinning with a Palestinian University

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

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".

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."

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.

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

The twinning would have ended in March 2010, in accordance with University of Manchester Students' Union Bye-Laws; 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. 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.


A students' union and refectory building existed at Owens College on the site afterwards used for the Christie Library (1898). A larger union and refectory building was built in 1909 on Burlington Street. Both these buildings were adjoined by a gymnasium. The union and refectory building was enlarged in 1936 but the union moved to the new union building built at 242–256 Oxford Road by J. S. Beaumont from 1953 to 1956. In 1960-65 the same architect was responsible for a new refectory and staff house on the Burlington Street site (a building which included the Moberly Tower hall of residence).

Famous former officers

This page was last updated at 2022-12-14 00:55 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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