Education: A-Z Of Universities: Thames Valley

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Age: Six as a university.

History: Previously the Polytechnic of West London. Formed in 1991 from a merger of Ealing College, Thames Valley College Slough, London College of Music and Queen Charlotte's College of Healthcare study. The following year it became a university with all the other polys.

Address: Ealing, west London (six locations), and Slough, Berkshire (two locations). Oh yes, and don't forget Reading, and Malaysia.

Ambience: Most students are in Ealing, 10 miles from central London. 20 per cent of students at Slough.

Vital statistics: Big, ethnically diverse institution with large number of mature students, many on sub-degree courses run part-time, day-release and in the evenings. 39,000 students in all, 9,000 of them taking TVU degrees abroad. Recruits heavily through Clearing. Got into trouble last year when it decided to pass students who should have failed. Order was rescinded, leaving TVU with some bad publicity, but no harm done. Student applications went up.

Added Value: Helps students find jobs via its Work Bureau which gets jobs in the university so students can work in-house in lieu of tuition fees. Provides service for employers looking for graduates.

Easy to get into? Yes. Takes access students, progressing from short course to access course to diploma to degree.

Glittering alumni: Pete Townsend, Freddie Mercury, Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones and members of Radiohead, Reef and The Seahorses. Also John Bird, editor-in-chief of the Big Issue; Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans; Anthony Booth, chief executive of Ericsson and Tony Frame, chairman of Bonnington Hotels.

Transport links: Free shuttle bus connects Ealing and Slough campuses. Tubes at Ealing take you in to central London. Trains to Paddington from Slough.

Who's the boss? Mike Fitzgerald, who used to sport long hair and an earring. Teaching: Awarded 22 out of 24 in sociology and linguistics, 18 in modern languages and 15 in American studies.

Research: 82nd out of 101 in the research assessment exercise. Achieved top grade 5 in linguistics.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: Three bars at each site and an annual ball. Live bands, club nights and parties throughout the week.

Cheap to live in: No campus accommodation. Expect to pay up to pounds 60 a week for a bedsit in Ealing; maybe a bit less in Slough.

Buzz-question: Are you going to the dogs tonight? (The local bar, the Dog's Bollocks)

Next week: University College London