The School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering has its origins in the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering in the Manchester Municipal School of Technology.

Sackville building, University of Manchester
Sackville Street Building


In 1905, Professor A Schwartz was appointed the first Professor and Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering. At this time, electrical engineering comprised mainly the study of electrical machines for drives and for the generation of electricity. Some metrology and electrical chemistry was also taught.


After the Second World War undergraduate degree courses began to grow in size and scope and power systems and high voltage engineering together with the newer subjects of electronic engineering, automatic control and communication engineering entered the curriculum.

The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), nicknamed Baby, was the world's first stored-program computer and it was developed in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at The University of Manchester. It was designed and built by Frederic C. Williams and Tom Kilburn and it ran its first program on 21 June 1948.


The appointment of Professor Colin Adamson as Head of Department in 1962 and the expansion of the university sector in the early 1960s led to a further expansion of the Department. This saw the introduction of the new areas of Solid State Electronics and Digital Processes incorporated into teaching and research.

By 1964 the academic staff had risen to 32, including two Professors, and this growth was continued over the next decades. The newly introduced taught Masters degree courses meant that postgraduate numbers also grew rapidly and, as a consequence, so did research activity.

1970 and 1980s

During the 1970s and 1980s it was not uncommon for the numbers of MSc and PhD degrees awarded by the Department each year to exceed the number of undergraduate degrees.

More recently, as the undergraduate class sizes have increased due to the availability of a wider range of taught programmes, including four year MEng courses, this trend has been reversed.

Recent success

The School has proved successful in all recently introduced quality measures, including the Research Assessment Exercise, the Teaching Quality Assessment and the IEE Accreditation of undergraduate programmes. The School came into being just as the former Department reached its centenary. During this time nearly 1,000 PhD and 3,000 MSc degrees were awarded in addition to the countless BSc, BEng and MEng graduations.

The current School has over 70 academic staff, with more than a quarter of these being Professors, and the challenge now is to carry forward this new structure and to continue the successes of the old Department.

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