Bicentenary Light Up: The University of Manchester lights up Middle East Centre in Dubai Knowledge Park to mark 200th anniversary and start a year of celebrations

UOM 200th Anniversary

The University of Manchester – one of the world’s top universities - has kicked off a year of bicentenary celebrations with an evening of illumination at the Middle East Centre in Dubai Knowledge Park. The 200th anniversary ‘Light Up’ event (held on January 17th) was attended by students, alumni, staff, partners and friends of the University who witnessed the lighting-up of the Centre (in the University’s distinctive signature purple colour) following a countdown to 18:24 local time, coinciding with the 1824 foundation of the University. 

The Light Up started with a push of the ‘big button’, a team affair led by Randa Bessiso (Middle East Director) who was joined by Richard Cotton (Head of International Development at The University of Manchester) visiting Dubai specifically for the event, and senior alumnus, Dr Naji Almahdi (Chief of Qualifications and Awards at Knowledge & Human Development Authority) who graduated from the University 50 years ago. 

The Light Up Celebration event at Dubai Knowledge Park Conference Centre featured a very interactive evening programme of activities reflecting on the University’s history, present and future, through performance, food, games and prizes. Students, alumni and `ambassadors turned out in strength, along with families and friends, to join the celebrations and ensured a party atmosphere. 

Guests included ‘student number 1’ – Mohamed Roushdy, the first student to join the Global Part-time MBA programme through the Middle East Centre, in 2006 – and his family.

The activities and games set up to keep guests entertained through the evening until the Manchester campus Light Up generated a lot of fun and competition – from ring on the bottle, find the bee, quizbee, shoot the hoop, lucky bounce, 200 reasons why – and many happy prize winners, thanks to the generosity of supporting partners.     

Later in the evening, guests were able to gather together and watch a live streaming of the bicentenary lighting-up event from Manchester, with a pathway of light illuminating iconic places and spaces on campus and beyond - a Light Up event also took place at the University’s Centre in Hong Kong.

In her message, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, said: “2024 is a very special moment for us at The University of Manchester, as we mark our bicentenary. A year to celebrate 200 years of learning, innovation and research. 200 years of our incredible people and community. 200 years of global influence. A time to reflect on the past. A time to recognise our key discoveries, pioneering ideas and world firsts. And a time to look forward to what our third century could bring, with our commitment to social responsibility underpinning all that we do. This special year is packed with opportunities and events for everyone – staff, students, alumni, residents and our wider, global community. After all, it’s all of you who make us what we are, and we want everyone to feel involved.”

Speaking at the Dubai Light Up event, Randa Bessiso said: “2024 marks a very special year for The University of Manchester as we celebrate our bicentenary – and 18 years in the Middle East. We’re spearheading change, addressing our planet’s greatest challenges, and making a difference in Manchester, the UK and beyond – including here in the UAE and the Middle East. For two centuries, we have collaborated, encouraged and inspired each other to make an impact on an international stage, highlighted by the 25 Nobel Prize winners associated with the University. And we continue doing it today through our commitment to world class teaching/learning, research and social responsibility.

 “Our celebrations at the Light Up event mark the start of a global and regional community programme highlighting The University of Manchester’s bicentenary and 200 years of making a difference. Through 2024, we will celebrate our past and look forward to our future with a year-long programme of creativity and imagination which sets the tone for our third century. This is a unique opportunity for the University and we are very privileged to be able to celebrate this milestone together with our community across the region.” 

In his comments at the Dubai event, Richard Cotton Head of International Development, highlighted the history and origins of the University, the success of the Middle East Centre, and what the community can look forward to through the rest of 2024. 

“The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) can trace its origins to the Manchester Mechanics' Institution, founded in 1824 as part of a national movement for the education of working men. The Victoria University of Manchester developed out of Owens College, which was founded in 1851, and from 1872 incorporated the Royal School of Medicine and Surgery, which had been formed (also in 1824) as a medical school owned by doctors. In 2004, UMIST and the Victoria University merged to form The University of Manchester, as we know it today.

“Just two years later in 2006, Randa Bessiso led the establishment of the Middle East Centre here in Dubai, bringing our mission - world class teaching/learning, research and social responsibility, and our values of knowledge, wisdom, and humanity - to the region.

“The Centre quickly became the largest and fastest growing in the University’s international network of five centres in key business cities around the world. Today, it retains this position and continues to grow and develop – with a dynamic portfolio of part-time masters programmes and executive education short business courses, careers and alumni support, and a vibrant group of corporate and social responsibility partners and collaborations with professional bodies. 

“The success of the Centre and the team is a source of great satisfaction and pride for the University and we look ahead to the future of the region with a lot of confidence; there’s real and growing interest across the campus in engaging with the Centre and the region.” 

Following the Light Up events, the celebrations will continue through 2024 with the launch of a bicentenary lecture podcast series, with special guests discussing subjects to which the University is committed, and through which it continues making a difference, such as health, the environment, community and education. 

The University will host the flagship event – Universally Manchester Festival, a special festival of ideas, performance and community in June, with a dynamic, inclusive and engaging programme focusing on creating a greener, fairer and healthier world. In October, the University will host the prestigious THE World Academic Summit and will welcome 500 global leaders in higher education to the campus and city.