Universally Manchester: Celebrating 200 Years of Civic Engagement

Ahead of the Universally Manchester Festival, Dr Julian Skyrme reflects on The University of Manchester’s community engagement.

The University of Manchester stands as a beacon of academic excellence, not only in terms of research and education but also in its dedication to civic engagement. With a rich history dating back to 1824, the University has continually demonstrated its commitment to serving the local community and beyond. 

At the heart of the University’s ethos lies a profound belief in the importance of engaging with the wider society. This dedication is evident through various initiatives and partnerships aimed at addressing societal challenges and promoting positive change.  

As Britain’s first civic university, the University was founded by, and for, the people of Manchester. For the University, contributing to the wellbeing and prosperity of Greater Manchester is a fundamental part of its purpose. Throughout the evolution of the University, it has played a part in Manchester’s development, creativity, and innovation.   

The University of Manchester’s current civic partnerships span from working with local residents through student volunteering, its co-curation of museum spaces with the Manchester South Asian community, research with Greater Manchester residents on recycling, to major investments in improving patient healthcare. The University is also working in partnership with the city to develop an innovation district, ID Manchester, on the site of the University’s North Campus. As a strategic partner in Manchester’s successful bid to become a UNESCO City of Lifelong Learning, the University is working with Manchester City Council, education providers and businesses to create a Digital Skills Framework for the city.

A great example of work close to the Oxford Road Corridor is the partnership with Ardwick Climate Action. Through this partnership academics from the University are working with Ardwick residents, Medlock Primary School and voluntary groups to monitor air pollution, campaign for change and develop remedial approaches to air pollution from motor vehicles.  

Ardwick Climate Action launches walking route to combat air pollution with Cllr Amna Abdullatif

The University of Manchester’s civic work is critical to its success because it is built on dialogue and partnerships. Its work with the Oxford Road Corridor to build a health innovation district has created a dynamic partnership between the public and private sectors to help address health challenges locally and globally.   

Now in its 200th year, the University of Manchester is continuing to honour its foundation as a civic university. Whilst the bicentennial year provides a great opportunity to celebrate the University’s history, it has also provided an opportunity to amplify its local partnerships. Celebrations started in January, as Oxford Road was lit-up to bring the corridor partners together to mark the start of this historical year, which will culminate in a four-day festival in June – Universally Manchester.  

Universally Manchester Festival is a free event running from Thursday, 6 June to Sunday, 9 June 2024. Festival goers will be able to curate their own varied programme, from behind-the-scenes tours to salon discussions, music, theatre, comedy, art, wellbeing and more, with something on offer for all ages and interests.  

From poetry to physics, music to medicine and computing to creative writing, the festival will have a different focus each day. More than 150 imaginative and immersive events will take place in unexpected places across campus, with events popping up everywhere: labs, concert theatres, outdoor spaces and the University’s award-winning culture hotspots the Whitworth and the Manchester Museum.  

This year, one of the festival days, Saturday 8 June, will be dedicated to welcoming its neighbours and local residents on to the University campus for the annual Community Festival.  

There will be something for everyone to enjoy, including creative sessions with poetry, music, and art; tours and meets-ups with our inspiring curators; activities for wellbeing; science experiments; stories of local history and experiences for visitors to enjoy. The Festival is a great way to find out exactly what goes on at the University and see behind the scenes in a fun and interactive way.  

Dr Julian Skyrme
Director of Social Responsibility,
The University of Manchester

Universally Manchester Festival
The University of Manchester | 6 – 9 June 2024

Universally Manchester Festival is a 200th birthday celebration like no other, with 150 free events across four captivating days at its iconic Oxford Road Campus.