Economics at The University of Manchester

A chair of political economy was established at The University of Manchester (then Owens College) in 1854, only three years after the college was founded.

William Stanley Jevons, one of the great British economists of the period, held the chair 1866-1877. While at Manchester Jevons wrote his Theory of Political Economy (1871), which begins: "The science of Political Economy rests upon a few notions of an apparently simple character. Utility, wealth, value, commodity, labour, land, capital, are the elements of the subject."

In 1899 the chair became the Stanley Jevons Chair of Political Economy, held by Alfred Flux until 1901. Flux was a founding member of the Royal Economic Society in 1890 and later served as President of the Royal Statistical Society.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Economics was firmly embedded within the University by both the establishment of the Faculty of Commerce in 1903 and the launch of a B.Comm. degree within which political economy was a compulsory component. The faculty later became the Faculty of Economic and Social Studies and is a direct predecessor of the current School of Social Sciences.

Economics at Manchester boasts three Nobel Prize winners:

  • Sir John Hicks, awarded in 1972, was a professor here from 1938 to 1946 and wrote his most important works on welfare economics. The kind of theoretical analysis that characterised his work continues to infuse research at Manchester and a current chair is named as the Sir John Hicks Professor of Economic Theory.
  • In 1948, Sir Arthur Lewis joined as Professor of Economics at the young age of 33. Awarded the Prize in 1979 for his work in development economics, his Nobel autobiography attributes his interest in the area to "the throng of Asian and African students at Manchester". In his memory, the home of Economics and the School of Social Sciences is named the Arthur Lewis Building.
  • Joseph E. Stiglitz, being awarded the prize in 2001 for his work showing that asymmetric information can provide the key to understanding many observed market phenomena, including unemployment and credit rationing. Stiglitz also used to chair the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University.

Manchester is also notable for having the first established chair of Econometrics in the UK, held by Jack Johnston from its foundation in 1959 until he moved to the University of California Irvine nearly twenty years later. Johnston's Econometric Methods was the first textbook on the subject and for decades remained an essential point of reference. The first two editions (1963 and 1972) were written at Manchester.

Other well-known economists who spent substantial periods of time as a staff here include Harry Johnson (1956-1959), David Laidler (1969-1975) and Michael Parkin (1970-1975). Further, Sir Richard Blundell (RES President 2010-2013) began his academic career at Manchester (1975-1984). As did Richard Smith (1976-1989, managing editor of the Econometrics Journal). While Rachel Griffith, currently the managing editor of the Economic Journal has been a professor here since 2010.

Historically we had separate departments of Agricultural Economics, Economics, and Econometrics and Social Statistics (the first Econometrics Department in the UK, established in 1959), these merged into a single unit in 1994. It is now one of the largest departments in the country, with 65 members of academic staff (faculty), including 15 professors.

The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester is Britain’s first chartered university of the 21st century. It was created in its present form by bringing together the Victoria University of Manchester and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST, then a separate institution) in 2004.

We have the largest number of students of any higher education institution in the country (unless the University of London colleges are counted as a single university) and teaches more academic subjects.

The Victoria University of Manchester developed out of Owens College, which was founded in 1851 and incorporated the Royal School of Medicine and Surgery from 1872, the latter formed in 1824 as a medical school owned by doctors. The origins of UMIST lie in the Manchester Mechanics' Institute, founded in 1824 as part of a national movement for the education of working men.

We can lay claim to 25 Nobel Laureates among current and former staff and students, including Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010. The nuclear age was born in Manchester with Ernest Rutherford's pioneering research that led to the splitting of the atom.

The computer revolution also started here in June 1948 when a machine built by Tom Kilburn and Sir Freddie Williams, known affectionately as 'The Baby', ran its first stored programme, followed by the world's first transistorised computer in 1953. Alan Turing, widely considered to be the father of computer science, was Reader in Mathematics at the University of Manchester from 1948 and worked on the software for these early machines.

Major cultural and scientific assets include the Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery, John Rylands Library in the city centre and Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire.