University of Manchester students.

Learning and students

Our students make an active contribution to the social responsibility, civic engagement and the sustainable development of society – locally, nationally and internationally.

With over 45,000 students and 550,000 alumni, who we educate, how we deliver teaching, learning and the student experience and what our graduates go on to do as future citizens and professionals play a major role in creating a fairer, more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

Who we educate
Universities play major roles in either reinforcing or challenging existing social inequalities and environmental challenges. Our commitment to social responsibility and sustainable development through the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) means that we wish to ensure that young people, whatever their obstacles or background, have an opportunity to find out more about higher education and make informed choices about their future. We work with pupils, teachers and parents to reduce inequalities and widen participation into higher education generally, whether this is to our own or another university.

We ensure fair access to The University of Manchester through our pioneering Manchester Access Programme, with generous financial support, by addressing inequalities through our contextual admissions, through the opportunities we extend to learners in developing countries, and in the hand we extend to refugees and asylum seekers and those fleeing areas of the world facing humanitarian conflict. We are also ensuring prospective students of higher education are able to see the linkages between their proposed degree programmes and the UN SDGs.

How we deliver teaching, learning and the student experience
As key citizens and leaders of tomorrow, we want to ensure that our students develop not only academic and professional skills, but also a sense of ethical, social and environmental responsibility towards the societies they will serve, including awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Through the curriculum we have embedded the principles of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) across all our degree programmes with our commitment to the graduate attributes outlined in our Purposes of a Manchester Education where all our graduates are “confronted with their own civic values and responsibilities as local, regional and global citizens” and are expected to “show awareness of social, political and environmental issues” through engagement with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other global goals.

We have created a University Living Lab that is open to all and applies the energy and expertise of student projects to external organisations who face real-world challenges framed around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are also pioneering forms of service learning to ensure that teaching and learning goals can also create social benefit, focusing initially on biology, medicine and health programmes.

Beyond the formal curriculum: Stellify award
Our commitment to supporting social responsibility among our students is encapsulated through our Stellify initiative, which is open to and mandatory for all undergraduate students. This allows students to:

  • Engage in society’s big questions through exposure to Ethical Grand Challenges, focused on key areas of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • Volunteer to address key local and global goals – be this around people, the planet, prosperity, peace or partnerships;
  • Step up and lead on key educational challenges and opportunities.

Our University of Manchester Students’ Union oversees hundreds of volunteering and fundraising activities, liberation, democracy and campaign work and activities focused on social responsibility and sustainable development.

Co-curricular activities: University College for Interdisciplinary Learning
All taught students at Manchester – undergraduate and postgraduate – are able to access our University College for Interdisciplinary Learning (UCIL) programmes to take as part of their degrees. These include units such as:

Degree programmes addressing sustainable development
In addition to the way embedding awareness of social responsibility and sustainable development for all students, we deliver specific programmes focused on the SDGs. These include, for example:

Assessing student awareness of sustainability
Since 2016 we have rolled out sustainability awareness and literacy through carbon literacy project. Examples include:

  • Carbon literacy training and awareness for staff and students in our laboratories;
  • Carbon literacy training and awareness for staff in our University museum.

In 2024 we committed to work with Sulitest on:

  • their pioneer programme to use TASK assessment across specific degree programmes;
  • The Sulitest Awareness Tool.

Case study: Greater Manchester Graduates

We are celebrating the impact our graduates make through our Greater Manchester Graduates campaign.

Each year, over 17,000 students will graduate from The University of Manchester, many of whom are already making contributions to our city through healthcare, education and protecting the natural environment.

Since the University’s foundation, delivering civic impact has been at the heart of our values, with 45% of graduates remaining and working within the north-west, contributing to our public services and helping communities to thrive.