Education: A to Z of Higher Education Colleges: This Week: College Of St Mark and St John

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The Independent Culture
Age: From its first incarnation, it's 159.

History: Founded by Derwent Coleridge, brother of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, it was a marriage in 1923 of two teacher-training colleges called St John's (you guessed!) of Battersea and St Mark's of Chelsea. In 1923, it moved from London to Plymouth rather than have a road built through its grounds. Until 1957, all students were male.

Address: Green-field site on the outskirts of Plymouth. Plus a London base, the Urban Learning Foundation, where students go for teaching practice.

Ambience: Views to die for - overlooking Dartmoor and the sea. Five miles from Plymouth centre. Purpose-built modern premises swathed in green fields, shrubs, trees, flowers, hanging baskets and scampering squirrels. Plans afoot to introduce rabbits. Chaplaincy centre in the midst of campus. Friendly, close-knit atmosphere. Everyone knows everyone.

Vital statistics: Small to medium-sized C of E college with 5,000 students, known for teacher-training, especially PE. But has diversified energetically, and now runs degrees in media studies, English, leisure and tourism, speech and language therapy, IT and sport. There is a huge international contingent originating from 50 countries. One-third of students are over 21 on entry; two-thirds are female. Degrees validated by Exeter University.

Added value: Sport - and more sport. Floodlit all-weather sports arena and pitches, sports centre with gym, fitness suite, weight-training room, squash courts, climbing-ladder and indoor heated 25m swimming-pool.

Easy to get into? Two A-level passes. Students can also enter with alternative qualifications.

Glittering alumni: Rev Joy Carroll, the real-life model for the Vicar of Dibley on telly; Bernard Cornwell, the author of the Sharpe novels depicted on telly; Emma Scott, member of the first all-women's expedition to the North Pole in 1997.

Transport links: If you don't have a car, you can take a bus plying to and from Plymouth until midnight. Road links with the rest of the country not bad nowadays - A38 Devon Expressway links to M5 at Exeter. Or catch a train.

Who's the boss? Dr John Rea, geologist and mover and shaker in the world of higher education colleges.

Teaching: Scored 19 out of 24 for media studies; 21 for English language; 22 for sociology. In teacher training, was rated sound/ good in the primary sweep; adequate but needing significant improvement in foreign languages, good/ adequate in secondary maths, art, PE, English, IT; good in secondary science.

Research: Awarded 3a (top grade is 5) in the research assessment exercise.

Financial health: In the black.

Night-life: Bopping in the students' union, plus karaoke and Caribbean nights. Big events are the Fancy Dress Christmas Ball and the black-tie May Ball. There are also night-clubs in the infamous Union Street area.

Cheap to live in? It costs pounds 47.50 per week for a student room in university accommodation; pounds 42-pounds 45 for a privately rented room (no food).

Buzz-assignation: See ya in the SUB for mayhem (meet you in the union bar on Friday for the special 50p a shot and 70p a pint cheap-drink night).

Next week: College of St Martin