When you think of the famous alumni associated with The University of Manchester, who comes to mind first? Perhaps Brian Cox? Benedict Cumberbatch ? Jesse Armstrong ? A lot of the women who have graduated from The University of Manchester have gone on to be top of their field and make an impact on the world, however, are not as widely known as their male counterparts. This IWD lets highlight the contributions of some of these incredible women and bridge the gender based knowledge gap of our notable alumni.
Class of: 1906
Christabel Pankhurst is a UoM alumni who co-founded the Women’s Social and Political Union , later to be known as the Suffragettes. Although Pankhurst obtained a law degree at her time in university, she was not allowed to practice due to the fact that she was a woman and instead focused on organising for women’s rights. Christabel was jailed several times between 1906 and 1918. In 1921, she moved to America and upon her return to England in 1936 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire. Today, the university is honouring her legacy through The Christabel Pankhurst Institute – an initiative to promote health collaboration and research. Learn more about the institute here.
Samia Suluhu Hassan
Degree: Postgraduate Diploma in Economics
Class of: 1994
Samia Suluhu Hassan was the 10th Vice President of Tanzania between 2015 and 2021 and is currently the 6th President of the republic. She began her career in the public sector immediately after secondary school working for the Ministry of Planning and Defence and pursued a number of short and part-time courses to earn a degree while working, including her postgraduate diploma at UoM. After graduating from UoM in 1994, she decided to run for public office six years later, becoming one of the only high-ranking female members in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Despite the stigma she received from her male colleagues, she continued to rise up the political rankings becoming Vice President to John Magufuli in 2015. In 2021, she was appointed President due to Magufuli’s death becoming the first female president of Tanzania. So far, her presidency has been commended as a turning point to Tanzania’s COVID-19 response. She has encouraged widespread vaccination in the country, and displaced mistrust of the vaccine by taking the vaccine publicly.
Degree: Electrical Engineering, Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering
Class of: 1932
Beatrice Shilling OBE was a British aeronautical engineer whose Shilling Orifice made notable contributions to the RAF fighter jets during the Second World War. The device officially known as the RAE restrictor was used to counter engine cut-out during nosedives in early Merlin Engine fighter planes. Beatrice was recruited for the Royal Aircraft Establishment after completing her undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and masters degree in mechanical engineering at what is now known as UoM. She worked at the RAE until her retirement in 1969. Due to her many contributions to engineering, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from The University of Surrey, Engineering Chartership (CEng.) and an Order of British Empire (OBE).
Degree: Pharmacy (MPharm)
Class of: 2002
Sara Khan is a human rights activist working the amplify Muslim voices in the UK. She works as the Lead Commissioner for the Commission for Countering Extremism in the Home Office and co-founded the British charity ‘Inspire’ which aims to tackle gender inequality. Her activism was inspired by her time at UoM where she was President of Young Muslims UK society. Her work in activism has been widely recognised and she was appointed Dame Commander of Order of British Empire (DBE) in the 2022 New Years Honours.
Degree: The University of Manchester Global Institute (PhD)
Class of: 2000
Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid is a pioneer for international growth and development and is currently the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, ICT and Tourism. She previously worked with the United Nations on a series of roles in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Development Bank. Dr. Abou-Zeid continues to challenge stereotypes about African nations and serves the entire continent through her work as Commissioner. She received the University’s Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award in 2017 for her work in development.