UMIST Community Action

UMIST – University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology – Students Union

Community Action

1977 to 1981


UMIST was the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, based just south of Manchester’s city centre in the UK. Its degrees were awarded by the nearby University of Manchester, but for all other purposes it was a separate organisation, including admissions and government funding. UMIST and the University of Manchester merged in 2004. UMIST had its own Students Union (SU), and in turn the SU had its own Community Action (CA) organisation. In some other universities the name was Student Community Action, SCA.

CA was an organisation with a paid worker, a student officer elected every year, an office base in the SU building, budget and a body of student volunteers. The CA Officer was a member of the SU Executive Committee. Around this period the CA Officer became a sabbatical post, meaning that the student was paid to take a gap year to focus on this role without studies.

CA was more permanent within the SU than a student society, being on a par with other ‘departments’ such as for Entertainments and for the Bar. All UMIST undergraduate and post-graduate students were eligible to volunteer, and there was no fee or subscription.

During the late 1970s the CA Worker was Gill Marjoram, and c.1980 she was followed in post by Paul Baker and then Debbie Ellen (1984-1986).

CA Officers were elected annually and included David Heaton, Tony Baldwinson, Mark Patchett.

CA ran a number of projects including c.1981:

  1. a Kids’ Disco (Saturday mornings), a Chorlton playgroup, babysitting for Gingerbread;
  2. befriending patients in Springfield mental health hospital (Tuesday evenings);
  3. sandwiches for homeless people at Manchester Night Shelter (two evenings each week);
  4. disability awareness and removing barriers (access project);
  5. visiting elderly people (ad hoc), and a large Christmas Party on campus;
  6. welfare rights advice stall at Salford market;
  7. Collyhurst club for people with learning disabilities (“mentally handicapped” at the time);
  8. Working with young ex-offenders at Nacro on better skills such as maths.

The CA office was on a quiet area of the second floor in a room (D4) with no window that used to be used to store furniture. It was large enough to function as a drop-in lounge for around 12 to 15 students as well as including the worker’s desk, files and phone line. There was no CA committee as such, decisions were usually made during Wednesday lunchtime discussions when the room was fullest.

CA usually had a monthly newsletter during term times, and from around spring 1979 it was called Communiqué.

There were some umbrella organisations connecting CAs in different universities. These included SCARP (Student Community Action Resource Programme) with SCAN (Student Community Action Newsletter). The two SCARP workers in Manchester in the 1970s were Dave Carter, along with Steve Hewlett who went on to work at the BBC in TV and Radio 4 mostly as a journalist and editor. Four other SCARP workers were based in London. After SCARP folded in 1980 it was replaced with SCADU, the Student Community Action Development Unit.