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The LEGACY Issue: Celebrating 200 years of Manchester Met

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This year we’re celebrating our university’s 200th anniversary and the 10th print issue of aAh! Magazine – Manchester Met’s online and print student arts and culture magazine. Reflecting on these milestones, we’re looking back at our journey over the years as a magazine, at our university, in our fantastic city and through our own personal experiences in The LEGACY Issue.


The Mechanics’ Institute, a precursor of Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester (UoM), is formed on April 7. One of its founders, Joseph Brotherton, later becomes Salford’s inaugural MP and the UK’s first vegetarian parliamentarian.

Elsewhere in the city, the country’s first horse-drawn bus route starts running between Market Street and Pendleton on New Year’s Day. Students would have to wait another 180 years before the first Magic Bus made an appearance on Wilmslow Road, and then three came all at once!


The UK’s second oldest art school opens, the Manchester School of Design. After several name changes, it became part of Manchester Met (then known as Manchester Polytechnic) in 1970.

Also in 1838, Manchester was made a borough, absorbing Ardwick, Hulme and Chorlton-on-Medlock, among others.


Not the tautology its name suggests, but a teacher training college. It has seen many guises and location changes throughout its history, but it is now one of the UK’s leading destinations for future educators.

Over the road from the All Saints campus, the Deaf Institute also opened its doors in 1878.

LS LOWRY, 1909

LS Lowry begins studying at the School of Art under the teacher who would become his biggest influence, the Impressionist painter Adolphe Valette. Other notable art school alumni include women’s rights campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst and designer Peter Saville.

Manchester United win the first of their dozen FA Cups this year and — stamp collectors rejoice — the first Philatelic Congress of Great Britain takes place at Hulme Town Hall.

BABY, 1948

The University of Manchester unveils the Small Scale Experimental Machine, aka Baby, the world’s first computer. 

Primitive by today’s standards, its memory of just 32 words is nevertheless the direct ancestor of everything from smartphones to wearables to gaming PCs. Baby shaped the future of the world.


UMIST — another successor of the Mechanics’ Institute — transfers its non-degree courses to the School of Art in 1966, with a name change to Manchester Polytechnic in 1970.

Overworked NHS staff is an issue in 1970, too. Not allowed to be paid cash for overtime work during a flu outbreak, bosses at Ancoats Hospital instead remunerate nurses with extra meat pies and jam pudding.

MMU, 1992

After the Higher and Further Education Act of 1992, MMU is born! It, along with three dozen other former polytechnics, becomes the first wave of ‘post-1992’ universities.

With the ‘Madchester’ craze fizzling out, Factory Records files for bankruptcy this year, with the expense of recording the Happy Mondays’ messy Yes Please! album being a contributing factor.

THE BOMB, 1996

This is a seismic year for Manchester. In June, a huge IRA bomb destroys a portion of the shopping area around Marks & Spencer and the Arndale Centre. Incredibly, the next day, Old Trafford hosts a Euro ‘96 football match between Germany and Russia.

Meanwhile, at Manchester Met, Queen Elizabeth II cuts the ribbon on the Geoffrey Manton Building.


The 17th Commonwealth Games take place in Manchester, with a classic Manchester welcome. It is a wet and wonderful opening to 11 days of competition.

In addition, UoM, UMIST, Salford and Manchester Met award honorary degrees to sportspeople, including track athletes Diane Modahl and Roger Bannister and cricketing legend Clive Lloyd.


The Humanity Hallows student magazine website launches. A print version follows in 2015; the predecessor to aAh! has Bipolar Sunshine on the front cover, along with features on How to Survive University, Street Style on a Budget and an Essential Guide to Manchester.

Other cover stars throughout its eight issues include Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr, comedienne Sarah Millican and Manchester Met’s very own Joe Stretch. It rebrands as aAh! in 2018, with an overarching theme running through each biannual issue. Starting with ‘UGLY’ and exploring ‘FOOD’, ‘DISRUPTION’ and ‘YES’, the 10th print issue — this one – focuses on ‘LEGACY’.

CHANEL, 2023

An iconic event takes place in Manchester: the Chanel Métiers d’art 2023/24 fashion show. Manchester Fashion Institute students are invited to work alongside the Chanel team as backstage dressers, stand-in models and collection organisers.

This boosts Manchester’s thriving arts and culture community, evident through an infectious buzz around the city. Of course, Manchester provides plenty of rain to keep the canopy of the ‘Chanel Tunnel’ on Thomas Street busy.


With Manchester Met and UoM able to trace their roots back to the Mechanics’ Institute, both universities mark their 200th birthday with celebrations and events throughout 2024.

Here’s to the next 200 years!

About the author / 

Ian Burke

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