Social responsibility

We aim to contribute to the social, economic, and cultural success of the local, national, and international community by using our expertise and knowledge to address the major challenges of the 21st century.

Our priorities form part of the University’s overarching goals around Social responsibility.

Research with impact

Our research is making a difference locally and globally, including with many of the world’s least advantaged groups.

Centres, institutes and networks

Rice field

Humanities have a range of flagship centres, institutes and networks working collaboratively across disciplines to conduct significant research that addresses society’s most pressing issues of fairness.‌ This includes research undertaken on a variety of issues, including:

  • global health inequalities;
  • poverty;
  • education;
  • access to natural resources;
  • conflict;
  • ageing;
  • climate change;
  • gender;
  • class and ethnicity.

Find out more

Socially responsible graduates

We want to ensure our graduates are not only skilled knowledge workers of tomorrow but are also able to exercise important ethical, social, and environmental responsibilities.

Social responsibility in the curriculum

Within Humanities the majority of our degree programmes challenge our students to consider how what they are studying connects to society and the implications this may bring, including ethically, socially and environmentally.

As a Faculty, we run the flagship 'Social Responsibility in the Curriculum' programme.

This programme provides course leaders with the opportunity to bid for funding to incorporate a specific social responsibility element into their modules.

The aim is for students to be encouraged to think about how their enthusiasm for their subject can communicate, connect or be relevant beyond the immediate demands of their course and activities have included:

  • Incorporation of external visits or short placements in the curriculum (to cultural venues, small businesses, local charities, public sector bodies, schools, voluntary sector, and campaigning organisations)
  • Visits of relevant individuals or representatives of outside agencies to the module
  • Development of innovative assessment processes that orientate students to the outside world (eg challenging students to communicate research findings to an unexpected audience)
  • Creation of course materials that promote students’ work to non-university audiences (eg posters that present module content to a community group)
  • Incorporation of student projects or commissions that challenge them to explore the relevance of their subject/discipline area to contemporary events (eg using a module topic as part of Black History Month or Manchester Science Festival)
  • Innovative uses of technology where this enables new forms of communication, dissemination and engagement with external audiences (eg creating a website or YouTube channel as a response to module content)

Over 50 course modules have been supported through this flagship programme since 2012 and feedback from students, the course leaders and external partners involved has been very positive.

Ethical grand challenges

Ethic grand challenges poster

The Ethical Grand Challenges take place in each year of study.

These online activities and workshops allow humanities students to explore three of the biggest challenges facing the world in the 21st century - SustainabilitySocial Justice and Workplace Ethics. They are also part of the Stellify Award, the University’s most prestigious extra-curricular accolade for undergraduates. ‌

Sustainability Challenge Photography Competition

Humanities students can also take part in the Sustainability Challenge Photography Competition which engages students with sustainability issues.

Students can submit a photo and caption to raise awareness of a sustainability issue that matters to them.

Photographs can be taken on any device – phone, tablet, or camera.

Whilst primarily aimed at students, it also engages both University staff and the wider community.

University College for Interdisciplinary Learning (UCIL)

The University College for Interdisciplinary Learning (UCIL) course units give students the chance to study something new as part of their degree programme.

UCIL offers several units which focus on topics of social responsibility, focusing on current global issues and societal challenges.

These interdisciplinary course units are also designed to be accessible to all students, no matter what degree they are studying.

Engaging our communities

By engaging and partnering with a range of people and organisations we are harnessing our knowledge and resources to make a difference in our local communities and wider society.

How we engage with our communities

People talking at a conference

Business Engagement Services

The Humanities Business Engagement Services support a range of activities that facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships with industry, the public sector, and third sector organisations.‌‌


As a Faculty and including our Schools and Institutes we run a wide-ranging programme of public events, details of which can be found on our events pages.

School Governor Initiative

As a Faculty, we actively contribute to the School Governor Initiative signature programme with over 40 of our Humanities colleagues volunteering as School Governors.

Responsible processes

Our processes and policies aim to balance efficiency with opportunities to create social and environmental benefits.

Equality and diversity

The Faculty supports the Athena Swan Charter which recognises the advancement of gender equality. Traditionally focussed on promoting careers in science and technological fields the charter has been expanded to recognise the work undertaken in humanities too.

Race Equality Charter

We’re one of the first universities in the UK to have received recognition from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) for excellence in advancing racial equality in higher education.

We achieved a bronze award after successful participation in the initiative’s pilot year. Colleagues within Humanities contributed significantly to this achievement.

Environmental sustainability

Our research, teaching, and activities are guided by our commitment to environmental sustainability.

Supporting staff and students

Person working in the garden

We want to support everyone at the University – teachers, researchers, professional support staff, and students – to have a positive impact on the environment and to create a more sustainable future.

Environmental sustainability runs through the work we do within Humanities, including our research, teaching, procurement, IT, waste and recycling, and energy use.

Both the Manchester Urban Institute and the Sustainable Consumption Institute are examples of how Humanities research and engagement around sustainability can make a difference.

Courses on environmental sustainability

There are over 100 taught courses on environmental sustainability and many of our students can access these, either through their own degree study or via the University College for Interdisciplinary Learning (UCIL).

UCIL offers several environmental sustainability units including their flagship online unit 'Creating a Sustainable World: 21st Century Challenges and the Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs) giving students the opportunity to explore the UN's SDGs in depth.

All undergraduate students are also confronted with environmental sustainability in the Sustainability Challenge which forms part of the Ethical Grand Challenges programme.

This interactive online activity gets students to think critically about sustainability in a real-world context and empowers them to take action on issues that matter most to them.

Equality and diversity 

We're working to ensure the diversity of our workforce mirrors the ethnic, disability, and gender makeup of our local community and the markets in which we recruit. 

In the Faculty of Humanities, we have set a number of objectives to drive this forward.

Communicating university initiatives

Communicating university initiatives and engaging colleagues in generating ideas for tackling local issues, including gathering and promulgating data on the workforce composition and giving appropriate prominence to equality and diversity matters at management meetings in order to establish equality and diversity initiatives in the mainstream.

Developing an Equality and Diversity Action Plan

The development of an Equality and Diversity Action Plan for all staff, including positive action initiatives where appropriate, to increase the number of applications from under-represented groups and to help improve the performance of underrepresented groups at the shortlisting and interview stages.

Identifying barriers

Identifying and addressing barriers to promotion for under-represented groups by working with the Equality and Diversity Unit and the Disability Advisory Service.

By working with these groups, we will also improve the reporting of disability of both job applicants and current staff to allow appropriate support to be provided.

Social responsibility in our Schools