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University was first to pioneer open days

03 Jul 2012

The University of Manchester was probably the first institution to pioneer the concept of the open day – now a common feature in educational establishments across the world – according to a new book.

Graduates waiting patiently to pick their degree certificates in 1949
Graduates waiting patiently to pick their degree certificates in 1949

The open day was held in 1937, 75 years ago this year, as part of wider plans to reach out to regional, national and international communities.
The discovery was made by Drs Alex Robertson and Colin Lees, for a special edition of the Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester - the University’s Humanities journal.
The volume – published by The University of Manchester - charts the history of the University between 1918 and 1950, using hundreds of documents kept in the University’s archives.

A fascinating selection  of images from the period, found in the archives, are also published in the book, giving a flavour of what academic life was like long ago.

The pictures include a 1930 refectory, men drilling in the University quadrangle in 1914 and 1939 students sitting their finals.

There is also a powerful image of an orderly queue of hundreds of soon to be graduates, waiting patiently to pick up their degree certificates in 1949.
Dr Robertson, a Senior Lecturer at Manchester in the history of education until 2002, said: “Scant details remain of that 1937 event, besides the fact that all departments opened to the public, who were free to wander in.

“I’m not even sure if this was repeated thereafter every year, though my hunch is it probably was.

“But what is clear is that it was part of a pioneering University scheme to forge links with the community – which in many ways defines the modern University of Manchester of today.”
According to the researchers, industrialist and politician, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who died in 1960, persuaded the then Vice-Chancellor Sir John Stopford to take a more modern approach to connecting with non academic communities .
Earlier examples include an aerial picture taken of the University which was turned into a postcard to publicise a 1919 appeal.
The University was also instrumental in pioneering links with schools -  now also a common facet of modern university life.

Moves to forge links with industry such as ICI, Metropolitan-Vickers and  Simon engineering helped develop the University as a great centre of science and technology.
The student rag was also part of the modernising theme.
Head of Widening Participation at The University of Manchester Julian Skyrme said: “From these humble beginnings, the open day has become a defining feature of all university recruitment and outreach strategies.
“At Manchester, our open days remain the single most important mechanism on campus  in which we can reach out to our prospective students.
“We hold four open days a year: three for undergraduate students and one for postgraduates and see around 40,000 perspective students every year.”

Notes for editors

The University of Manchester, 1918 – 1950: New Approaches and Changing Perspectives is published in the Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester Volume 84, numbers 1 and 2. Review copies are available.

Copies of this issue of the Bulletin will be available to purchase in the Main Library

Published by the library since 1903, The Bulletin publishes articles in any subject area from the arts and social studies and on the historical or philosophical aspects of the natural and physical sciences. It concentrates on inter-disciplinary analyses which incorporate the results of research on the extensive collections of The John Rylands University Library.
High quality images are images available. Please credit the University of Manchester:
•    Bulletin front cover
•    Men drilling in the university quad (1914)
•    Aerial view turned into a postcard to publicize the appeal of that year (1919)
•    Students sitting finals in the Whitworth hall (1939)
•    The Caf. The former Welsh Chapel in Lime Grove incorporated into the refrectory (1930)
•    Students queuing in the University quad and processing into the Whitworth hall to be presented with their degrees (1949)

Dr Lees is available for comment

For media enquiries contact:
Mike Addelman
Press Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567