What did UMIST stand for?

Well, my over-riding memory of being at UMIST was just how very international it was. Unlike most other universities in England which were very mono-cultural, at least in our eyes.

UMIST was where I went to university in the late 1970s in Manchester. Many years later it merged with the University of Manchester which is nearby. Or was taken over, depending on your point of view. Now the ‘old UMIST’ campus is to be sold off as prime city centre land, earmarked for tower blocks of student housing. The word is consolidation.

Not so many years ago I tried to get a library ticket at the university after the merger. I was an alumni I told them. Ah yes, they said, but only UMIST alumni, so no free ticket. To be fair, that rule has changed.

And now the university is running a small project to try and preserve the memories and meanings of UMIST, asking on LinkedIn for nostalgic postings on what UMIST meant to its former students and staff. Well, some thoughts…

Of course, these days every university is chasing the overseas market and their fees. And even back in the day, post-graduate students in many places were from more diverse backgrounds than the undergraduates. But UMIST stood out as being highly international at all levels.

My extra-curricula interests ranged from the Socialist Society to Community Action, becoming the elected Welfare Officer with a sabbatical year after my graduation. The debates in the Students Union were wide-ranging, well informed, and keenly felt. The Iraq-Iran war directly affected people’s families and home towns. The ethnic Chinese students with families in Singapore knew what colonialism meant.

More recently I worked for the University of Salford, and curiously its high level of diversity amongst undergraduates was a pleasing reminder of the culture of UMIST.

I guess my point is, that notwithstanding all the marketing requirements that universities now have to never admit any weakness, it would be intellectually and personally satisfying to see some measure of recognition of the strength that was UMIST’s international culture.

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