Students gain a unique insight into one of Britain’s most highly recognised brands

This year, for the fourth year in a row, students had the opportunity to delve into the M&S Company Archive and find out about decades of M&S history, all whilst working towards their degree.

Students presenting their findings


The archive was used in a Business School undergraduate module called Corporate Social Responsibility.

Relocated to a permanent home on campus in 2012, the Archive collection tracks the history of M&S from the company’s beginnings at Leeds Kirkgate Market in 1884 to present day. The collection of over 70,000 items not only holds M&S products and advertisements over time, but also company records, annual reports and employee magazines from the early 1930s- it is no wonder it is such a rich resource for academic research.

Using Archive items to map CSR development within M&S, the module is one of the University’s ‘Discovery’ modules aimed at offering students extra opportunities to broaden their learning and pursue personal interests, whilst helping them to develop skills they will need once they graduate.

Students were split into groups and were given the task of researching CSR practices within M&S, from a certain decade. They then had to present their findings as part of their 'CSR through time' coursework assignment. The best group from each decade was awarded the 2016 CSR research prize and was chosen to present their findings to business representatives including an M&S Archivist and a member of the regional management team.

After watching the student presentations Mark Robson, M&S Finance and Operations Manager and regional Plan A Champion, said ‘’I’ve learnt lots from watching the presentations, it was really interesting. I enjoyed seeing the change in CSR through the decades’’

‘’The Archive is a fantastic facility. I was blown away with the level of detail from the students, from so long ago.’’

Katherine Chorley, M&S Archivist, said ‘’the students were really confident in presenting which showed they really understood what they were talking about’’

The module, which is run by Matthew Davis, has been a huge success, with nearly 300 students signing on this year.

Students found it a great opportunity to gain a unique insight into one of Britain’s most highly recognised brands. One student said ‘’we were able to put a face to a name, we see the brand everyday so it was great to learn more about it’’.

Another student when asked how she felt about being able to use the Archive within a University module said ‘’I think we’re really lucky’’.

Corporate Social Responsibility is one of several modules that use the M&S Company Archive as a hands-on resource and is a fantastic example of how the collection can enhance learning and teaching. With relevance to subject areas ranging from business and geography to linguistics and design, the archive can be used to support students and academics from a vast array of disciplines.

Contact the Archive team to explore how the M&S Company Archive could support your research or teaching.

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