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A History of the University of Manchester, 1973-90

A History of the University of Manchester, 1973-90

Brian Pullan
Michele Abendstern
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    A History of the University of Manchester, 1973-90
    Book Description:

    Frank and entertaining account of the University of Manchester's struggle to meet the Government’s demands for the rapid expansion of higher education in the 1950s and the 1960s. Looks at the University's ambitious building program: the controversial attempts to reform its constitution and improve its communications amid demands for greater democracy in the workplace, the struggle to retain its old pre-eminence in a competitive world where new ‘green field’ universities were rivalling older civic institutions. Tells the story, not just from the point of view of administrators and academics, but also from those of students and support staff (such as secretaries, technicians and engineers). Uses, not only official records, but also student newspapers, political pamphlets, and reminisences collected through interviews conducted by an experienced oral historian. The only book on the University of Manchester as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-125-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preliminary note
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. I The 1970s

    • 1 Uncertainty, economy and improvisation
      (pp. 3-28)

      In 1973 the finances of most British universities lay at the mercy of politicians and were subject to capricious cuts in public spending. Their precarious situation was a consequence of the state-financed expansion of the previous decades. What taxpayers gave, their elected representatives could pare and trim when the economy wilted and crisis loomed. In the midst of high inflation both Conservative and Labour governments failed to compensate universities for increases in the cost of living and forced them to scrimp and save whenever opportunities arose.

      Until 1977 three quarters of the annual income of the University of Manchester consisted...

    • 2 The academics: achievement and self-doubt
      (pp. 29-52)

      ‘It is a great university, even if people never tire of telling you so.’ Academics leaving Manchester for supposedly more benign places were inclined to pay back-handed compliments to the University. In the 1970s the institution was proud of its achievements and given to reciting them at length. Needing to assert its distinction and to struggle against its austere appearance, it possessed neither the ancient universities’ sense of natural superiority nor the Londoners’ confidence that ambitious academics would gravitate towards the capital. Senior Manchester figures, seasoned travellers from Manchester Piccadilly, Stockport, Wilmslow or Macclesfield to London Euston, strove to maintain...

    • 3 The academics: consultation and conditions
      (pp. 53-67)

      Universities, perhaps, did not achieve distinctionquauniversities, but strove to nurture and attract distinguished scholars and enable them to flourish. It was their task to create a stable framework and a congenial atmosphere within which individuals, groups or teams could make discoveries, communicate them, and pass on their wisdom to students, who would in due course begin to question it.

      By the early 1970s most academics had abandoned their dreams of abolishing hierarchy in the academic world and creating a commonwealth of equals. More modestly, they wanted adequate salaries, security of employment, and freedom to conduct research and teaching...

    • 4 The students: life and opinions
      (pp. 68-95)

      About 10,000 full-time students registered at Owens for the session of 1974–75, over 11,000 for that of 1979–80. At least 80 per cent were undergraduates. High fees and other obstacles tended to discourage research students, and the proportion of postgraduates sank from about one-fifth to one-sixth of the whole. Part-time degree and diploma students were numbered in hundreds: almost 700 in 1974–75, and over 900 in 1979–80. Most part-timers were now postgraduates; the Robbins Report had concentrated on the need to provide full-time places for a rising generation of young people, although evening degree classes in...

    • 5 The students: campaigns and causes
      (pp. 96-118)

      Stern critics accused the radical students of the 1970s of trying to carry on the 1960s by the same means. Raucous pickets, disrupted meetings and occupations of administrators’ offices still characterised the ritual of protest; squabbles between left-wing factions threatened to drive disillusioned students to vote for Conservative candidates who would run the Union on a tight rein.

      But there were original twists in the story of the 1970s. New methods of protest, including refusals to pay unjust fees or rents, drew attention to grievances though seldom got them rectified. New causes, such as the pacifist campaign to get troops...

  7. II The 1980s

    • 6 New direction
      (pp. 121-141)

      By 1980 the University of Manchester was no stranger to sudden reductions in the purchasing power of expected income. Hitherto it had proved possible to deal with cuts by thrift and ‘good housekeeping’, as Arthur Armitage called the moratoria and other measures he imposed. British universities in the 1970s had appeared to be companions in equal misfortune, in that the UGC had not – at least, not openly – assessed their supposed strengths and weaknesses when it distributed the shrunken parliamentary grants. In the Thatcher years, however, the cuts proved so severe as to demand that universities should alter their character in...

    • 7 Contraction, 1981–84
      (pp. 142-166)

      ‘As you are aware’, wrote the Vice-Chancellor to the Chairman of the UGC on 8 February 1982, ‘the University of Manchester, as the largest unitary university in the country, has a scale of problems in absolute terms which is not faced by any other similar university.’ The arid prose of official communications did little justice to the upheavals of the previous months. It had seemed that the University would be able to escape bankruptcy only by shedding one-seventh of its academic and supporting staff. Figures presented to Senate in November 1981 showed that the University’s annual income was now about...

    • 8 Enterprise and economy
      (pp. 167-188)

      Cuts in public spending forced universities to devise schemes for self-help which would reduce their dependence on public money. Some academics murmured of ‘going private’, but it was seldom clear what they had in mind; perhaps they dreamed of some English parallel to Ivy League universities, small, select and well groomed, supported by massive fees and the donations of prosperous alumni (a body which the University of Manchester had hitherto failed to cultivate as a source of support).

      The University was again forced to adopt a host of economy measures, some of them seemingly trivial, and puritans began to attack...

    • 9 The Students’ Union and the politicians
      (pp. 189-213)

      Student activists were not the revolutionaries of the 1980s, the bearers or prophets of a new order; instead they seemed fated to be rebels, protesting against changes imposed from on high. The initiative had passed to a neoliberal, sink-or-swim, roll-back-the-State Government which nevertheless contrived to interfere with universities as none of its predecessors had ever done. It appeared to be starving students of public money, ostensibly in an effort to make them more self-reliant (some Labour MPs remarked that the effect of the State’s parsimony was to make students stand on their parents’ feet rather than their own, and lean...

    • 10 Efficiency and academic freedom
      (pp. 214-238)

      Always inclined to describe grim situations in dispassionate tones, the Vice-Chancellor delivered on Founder’s Day 1985 a speech packed with foreboding, as he analysed a four-or five-year plan hatched by the Government and the University Grants Committee. From October 1986 the UGC would begin to shift resources from universities deemed weak to universities deemed strong in research. Some might either go bankrupt or, being deprived of research funding altogether, fall to the rank of Liberal Arts Colleges, as in the United States. Universities (as he might well have reminded his audience) had complained in the 1970s of being treated by...

    • 11 Research and rationalisation
      (pp. 239-267)

      In 1985 the UGC began to reveal the formula which it proposed to use in order to calculate the block grant for each university (‘transparency’ became one of the managerial watchwords of the late 1980s). About two-thirds of the grant would now depend on criteria related to teaching (student numbers, rather than proven pedagogic excellence), the rest on criteria related to research. It appeared that the Committee intended to divide universities into ‘cost centres’; to arrive at a ‘resource requirement’ for each; to add all of them together; and to make extra allowances for certain unusual items which did not...

    • 12 Student culture in the 1980s
      (pp. 268-292)

      At intervals journalists, commentators and left-wing politicians would accuse students of losing their idealism, of becoming materialistic and beady-eyed, obsessed with good results and good jobs, addicted to hedonism and pop culture rather than intellectual pursuits. An article demanding ‘Where have all the rebels gone?’ appeared on the twentieth anniversary of the events in Paris in 1968. After the Waddington affair in 1985–86 students seldom resorted to direct action within the University, although they still picketed and petitioned by way of protest. Demonstrators still clashed with the police, and a few Manchester students were arrested for public order offences,...

    • 13 Epilogue
      (pp. 293-300)

      In October 1989 Senate and Council heard that Sir Mark Richmond had resigned his office with effect from 30 September 1990. He was destined, it later transpired, for a spell of five years as Chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council, in which capacity he was soon to face the familiar task of announcing a shortfall in the budget and warning of ‘a sharp cutback on our activities next year’. He had presided with stoicism and courage over the most critical years in the University’s history, when the position of Vice-Chancellor brought the least pleasure and the most pain....

  8. Sources and bibliography
    (pp. 301-305)
  9. People interviewed
    (pp. 306-311)
  10. Statistical appendix
    (pp. 312-324)
    Michele Abendstern and Steve Chick
  11. Index
    (pp. 325-334)