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definition - University_of_Manchester_Students'_Union

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University of Manchester Students' Union

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
Website manchesterstudentsunion.com

The University of Manchester Students' Union (UMSU) 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.

Unlike many other students' unions in the UK, it does not have a president, but is instead run by a 14 member executive team (eight full-time, six voluntary) who share joint responsibility.



The Union is controlled by three levels of government. The sovereign body is the general meeting that sets policy and may be attended by any Union member. It has a quorum of 300 members for ordinary meetings which is rarely met; no meetings reached quorum during the academic year of 2009-10. At the October 2010 General Meeting students voted to call an unprecedented referendum on whether policy setting should be moved online so all Union members can vote;[1] this took place in November 2010 showing a 93% support for the plans. Online Voting is to be included in the new Union Constitution currently being ratified by members.[2]


The Union Council has approximately 65 members elected annually. They meet every three weeks in term-time. The Union Executive runs the union on a day-to-day basis and also sits on, and is elected concurrently with, the Council.


The current UMSU executive contains fourteen positions of which eight are full-time sabbatical officers and six are volunteers. All have their own areas of responsibility, but share joint responsibility as trustees of the Union and directors of Materialise Ltd, the Union's external trading company.

The positions on the executive are significantly different from those of UMU and USA. Faculty Officers did not exist in either organisation, nor did the full-time Campaigns Officer.


Elections to the Council and Executive take place in March for the following year, with a by-election in October to fill any vacancies. All Union members are free to stand, and to vote online (since October 2008) via the University's Central IT System, Portal.[3]

The elections are organised by the Returning Officer, who was previously nominated by executive from among the sabbatical officers. They would remain impartial in the outcome of the election. However, much power rests in the hands of the returning officer, who can disqualify candidates and rule on anything where the Election Regulations remain silent.[4] Consequently, a number of highly contentious decisions have been made in the past, some of which have been overturned on appeal or by an independent third party.

Starting in 2009 an external Returning Officer has been appointed from NUS to provide a more impartial governance to elections.[5]


  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 also contains a number of meeting rooms, the main council chamber and various student amenities including a ticket office, an optician,[6] a student shop and a cafeteria. The building is named after anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.

  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. It now contains a peer support centre as well as a student bar and a print shop.

  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, 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

UMSU is notable for regularly organising and hosting what is reportedly the largest student-led festival in Europe, Pangaea Festival. This is a biannual event where approximately 4000 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. http://www.pangaeafestival.co.uk/

  The Mancunion

The Mancunion is UMSU's student newspaper and is distributed through four universities; University of Manchester, University of Salford and University of Bolton and Manchester Metropolitan University. A team of section editors is responsible for producing the paper, with the editor being one of the sabbatical officers on the Union Executive. Nick Renaud-Komiya currently holds this position. The paper has a print-run of 40,000 and there are 20 editions per academic year.

  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 20–300 hours over the year. More information can be found at http://www.umsu.manchester.ac.uk/action

  Manchester RAG

Manchester RAG is the official fundraising arm of the UMSU. 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 £330,000 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,[7] 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. In 2011/12 Manchester RAG aims to raise over £500,000.

Its official website is www.manchesterrag.com

  Fuse FM

Fuse FM is UMSU's 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 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.[8] Fuse Fm was briefly denied its Spring 2008 license to broadcast, due to the startup of community radio station RockTalk. However RockTalk collapsed in late 2007 and Ofcom granted a license for FuseFM's 16th Broadcast.[9]

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.[10][11][12]


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.[13]

  Manchester Debating Union

The Manchester Debating Union (MDU) (home page) is the debating society;[14] membership is also open to people from other higher education institutions in Manchester, including Manchester Metropolitan University. The MDU was founded in 1996 and is modeled 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.[15]

The MDU was placed 5th in britishdebate.com's 2008/2009 European university debate rankings.[16]

The MDU holds regular public debates on Tuesdays during University semesters. Although these are often conducted by MDU members the society also holds debates with guest speakers. In the past these have included politicians such as 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 Thursdays 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.

  Notable Campaigns and Issues

  Twinning with a Palestinian University

UMSU 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[17][18]

In November 2007 a motion was proposed in the general meeting. It resolved to freezing UMSU's association with Al Najah University whilst awaiting a statement "denouncing terror and disassociating it from all terrorist organisations".[19]

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."[20]

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.[21]

This amendment passed with almost a two-thirds majority of the attendance of over 1100 students.[22]

  Famous Former Officers


  1. ^ Mancunion, Issue 6; Monday 25 October 2010 - Front page article.
  2. ^ http://www.umsu.manchester.ac.uk/downloads/council_minutes/council6_1.3.11.pdf
  3. ^ UMSU Election Regulations, "[1]"
  4. ^ "UMSU: Elections". Archived from the original on 2006-07-20. http://web.archive.org/web/20060720235636/http://www.umsu.manchester.ac.uk/index.php?section=20. 
  5. ^ Executive Minutes 4/9/09 Section 6 - http://www.umsu.manchester.ac.uk/downloads/exec_minutes/exec6_4.9.09.pdf
  6. ^ University Vision Service Opticians - http://www.university-vision-manchester.co.uk
  7. ^ "Jailbreak Website". Jailbreak Website. http://www.jailbreak.org.uk. 
  8. ^ Fuse FM Manchester Student Radio
  9. ^ Fuse FM to Return to the Airwaves, Student Direct
  10. ^ Student Radio Awards - 2005 - Winners
  11. ^ The Student Radio Awards - 2006 - Winners
  12. ^ Student Radio Awards 2007 - Winners
  13. ^ "The ThreeWeeks Editors Awards 2006". Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 2006-08-28. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. http://web.archive.org/web/20070927195044/http://www.edfringe.com/story.html?id=1656&area_id=53. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  14. ^ UMSU List of Societies
  15. ^ The Manchester Debating Union
  16. ^ British Debate | Universities | Rankings
  17. ^ "Policy passed at General Meeting, 7 March 2007: Palestine and the Right to Education". http://www.umsu.manchester.ac.uk/pdf/palestine_education.pdf. 
  18. ^ "The Muslim News: UK Universities twinning with Palestinian ones". http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/paper/index.php?article=3468. 
  19. ^ "Policy defeated at General Meeting, 14 Nov 2007". http://www.umsu.manchester.ac.uk/pdf/gm1_14.11.07.pdf. 
  20. ^ "Al Najah Responds to Motion-1". http://www.actionpalestine.org/student-movement/al-najah-right-to-education-campaign-responds-to-motion-1/. 
  21. ^ "Policy passed at General Meeting, 14 Nov 2007: Peace Through Education". http://www.umsu.manchester.ac.uk/pdf/peace_through_education.pdf. 
  22. ^ "An Olive Tree for Solidarity". http://www.actionpalestine.org/an-olive-tree-for-solidarity/. 

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