A-Z OF UNIVERSITIES: King's College London

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Age: 168.

Address: Main campus, within walking distance of Covent Garden, is on the Strand sandwiched between Fleet Street, the Embankment, Somerset House (which houses the Courtauld Institute) and the fine Wren church, St Mary's- in-the-Strand. Other campuses are in Kensington, Chelsea and on the South Bank at Waterloo. The school of medicine and dentistry and Institute of Psychiatry are in Denmark Hill, south London. Merger plans will bring in sites at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals.

Ambience: Disparate campus dilutes community atmosphere. But the corporate spirit can be seen in competitiveness with UCL. Sleek, 1970s front entrance conceals a maze of grand neo-classical architecture behind as well as statues, Great Hall and 19th century chapel by Sir George Gilbert Scott, responsible for St Pancras station. The medley of Victorian and modern buildings at Kensington and Chelsea to be replaced in next few years by remodelled site at Waterloo.

Vital statistics: Part of London University, it has enough students (10,000 undergraduates, almost 3,400 graduates) to be a university in its own right. Small group teaching. Good academic standards achieved by multicultural social mix. But students also have fun, especially at Tutu's nightclub, dubbed the best student venue in London by Time Out.

Added value: Hot on theology: runs an optional theology/ philosophy/ethics course for all students. That is a hangover from its church foundations and helps to explain rivalry with UCL, a college established for dissenters. Two new halls of residence provide almost 1,000 en-suite rooms in flats in central London.

Easy to get into? No. Grades required at A level are AAB for law, ABB for medicine, BCC mathematics and biotechnology.

Glittering alumni: Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town; Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury; two Nobel Prize winners - Maurice Wilkins, joint discoverer of DNA, and Sir James Black, developer of life-saving heart drugs; Sir Richard Sykes, chairman and chief executive of Glaxo; authors Susan Hill, Arthur C. Clarke, Anita Brookner and Hanif Kureishi; conductor John Eliot Gardiner; impressionist Rory Bremner.

Transport links: Easy access to mainline and tube stations, bus and coach routes and airports. New Waterloo campus is only a couple of minutes from Eurostar terminal for trips to the Continent and rest of the world.

Who's the boss? Bearded Professor Arthur Lucas, biologist, science educationalist and science historian.

Teaching rating: Recent scores out of 24 include Spanish 22; French 21; Portuguese 23; electronic and electrical engineering 20; German 20.

Research: Came 23rd out of 101 in the research assessment exercise. Awarded tip-top 5* in classics, Byzantine and modern Greek; education, German, history, mechanical engineering, music, psychiatry and war studies. Awarded top grade 5 in applied mathematics, pure mathematics, law, nursing, philosophy, Portuguese, Spanish and theology and religious studies.

Financial health: Claims to be good. Assets pounds 41 million; operating surplus pounds 2 million. The college has strong overseas earnings and its research income comes almost equally from grants and contracts.

Nightlife: Tutu's nightclub, which doubles as a cafe/bar during the day, attracts big-name bands eg Salad, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Spearhead and Michelle Gayle. Waterfront Bar has the best views in London.

Cheap to live in? No, not with halls of residence in Hampstead, Kensington, Chelsea and Waterloo. Cost of college room with food pounds 84 to pounds 108 a week; without food pounds 41 to pounds 60.

Buzzword: A Desmond (a lower second degree, named after Desmond Tutu).

Next week: Kingston

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