A-Z OF UNIVERSITIES

ASTON
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Age: 101.

Pretty ancient, eh? Began life as Birmingham Municipal Technical School, was renamed Birmingham Central Technical College, then became the first College of Advanced Technology, and finally, in 1966, a university.

Address: Birmingham, the Midlands.

Ambience: Modern, increasingly green 40-acre campus with a lake.

Wait, isn't Brum the home of the motor car, spaghetti junctions and the Bull Ring. Well, yes. But protests it's a vibrant city that has been revitalised and transformed, internationally recognised as a leader in leisure, entertainment and sport, developing a reputation as Europe's meeting-place.

Sounds like a load of PR guff. Maybe to you. To its residents it has attractive modern shopping arcades, restaurants and lively night life catering to everyone's tastes.

Vital statistics: A technological university but expanding in all directions. Big business school. Plans for new school of humanities to build on strengths in languages and European studies. Two-thirds of students on sandwich courses.

Easy to get into? Average. A-level requirements range from BBB for optometry, through BBB/BBC for most business school courses to CCC for some engineering subjects.

Added value: Strong European focus. Most degree programmes have foreign language option. Language tuition available to all students of business studies, combined honours and engineering. Formal exchange links with 24 universities. Close links with industry and business.

Glittering alumni: More substance than glitter here. Former students are now captains of industry: Ed Wallis, chief executive of PowerGen, and Graham Broom, chief executive of Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Ltd Industrial Forum.

What a mouthful! Yes, but what power.

Transport links: Good. Birmingham New Street station a mere 12 minutes' stroll from the campus. Junction with M6 a two-mile hike and Birmingham International Airport nine miles.

Buzzphrase : "Let's 'ave it" (as in uplifting exhortation).

Who's the boss? Professor Mike Wright, 49, whiz-kid and Aston alumnus with mind like a steel trap. He got a first in electrical engineering in 1969, followed by a PhD three years later for research in electromagnetic machines, then 18 years in industry. At 35 he became managing director of Molins.

Teaching rating: French and German scored 22 out of 24, and chemical engineering 19 out of 24.

Research strengths: Neural networks, synthetic biomaterials, photonics, high-speed machinery, pharmaceuticals and structures and materials.

Financial health: Claims to be solvent. According to Noble's Higher Education Financial Yearbook was in the red in 1994-95 to the tune of pounds 312,000.

Night life: Utterly superb, says students' guild. Events most nights including discos, comedy, music of all kinds. Not to mention 100 pubs within a mile of the Aston triangle (the campus).

Cheap to live in? Relatively inexpensive accommodation.

Next week: University of Wales, Bangor.

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