BRITAIN

1.5 million students

Distinguishing features: Worn-in Gap jeans or Levis, Doc Martens. Long limp print skirts for girls. Baggy, holey jumpers both sexes. Lots of washed-out black. Long hair: matted pony tails (boys), lank curtains (girls). Frowst in campus 'study-bedrooms', worrying about the Milk Round and getting a job. Evenings in Union bar or the pub, drinking Diamond White, smoking Silk Cut - or topping up night-club tan (milky pallor).

Spending power: Up to pounds 2,245 a year grant; optional pounds 720 loan.

Influences: Arty types wax lyrical about Camus and late-night Fellini; Union more likely to be showing Hot Shots Part Deux. Primal Scream, Nirvana, but Gary Glitter still packs them in.

Heroes: Jim Morrison; Milan Kundera; Benazir Bhutto.

Radical element: Low-key. Demonstrations are out, says National Union of Students - 'not the best way to rally public opinion'. Encourages members to write letters on subjects that upset them.

Prospects: 15 per cent graduate unemployment.

GERMANY

1.8 million

Distinguishing features: Neat. Pristine Levis. Short hair, ironed shirts, even sports jackets for boys; blouses for girls. 'There isn't a feeling of scruffiness. They don't slum it.' And elderly. Degrees take up to ten years. Most work at the same time as studying. Seen in bars rather than clubs.

Spending power: 5 per cent full state support; rest depend on partial grant/loan, parents, jobs.

Influences: 'Punk, hardcore - No Means No, Rage Against The Machine, German music from the 70s, 80s, 90s' - plus pop and soul. New Romantics never went away; heavy metal also still big - unlikely Spandau Ballet meets AC/DC mixture. Schindler's List current must-see. 'Everyone should go to this film to know what can happen, not to feel guilty.'

Heroes: Steves Biko and Spielberg.

Radical element: Committed. 100,000 students demonstrated against university fees; more demos planned for the summer against fees and social security cuts.

Prospects: 'Unemployment is rising. Technical students are okay, others have a hard time.'

SWEDEN

1.7 million

Distinguishing features: Naff. Copy what they think British undergraduates wear. 'We like Levis. And knitwear.' Reebok trainers; Hennes (girls); Moritz (boys). Drink 'lots of beer. Pripps and Carlsberg' in student union subsidised bars.

Spending power: Government meets 30 per cent of expenses; rest is student loans.

Influences: Very proud of Bjork - and she's not even Swedish.

Heroes: 'Ecologists.'

Radical element: Non-existent. More interested in environment than politics. 'Two or three years ago the government wanted to withdraw our travel discount cards. We were upset.' Even think grant is 'a good amount to live on.'

Prospects: 'We think a little of unemployment but not so very much' - though government have cut all state benefits.

ITALY

2 million

Distinguishing features: Two extremes - designer-clad rich kids and Sixties-hang-over scruffs (often middle-class and making a point). Designer jeans, well-pressed chinos, leather and suede, flirty short skirts, neat handbags. Labels from Benetton (considered quite down-market) all the way up to Valentino and Moschino - plus Porsche shades. Or beatnik chic - beatup fleamarket finds. Drink Adelscott or Ceres beer on piazzas and in cafes (Peroni rather naff now). Smoking Marlboro Lites ultra-cool.

Spending power: No state grant system; rely on parents.

Influences: Some still look up to the old socialist greats - Marx, Engels. Che Guevara posters still in evidence. Shun ubiquitous TV quizzes for political satire. Old favourites like Sting mix with rap and Jamaican

music.

Heroes: 'There isn't anyone in public life at the moment.'

Radical element: Divided. Posing more important than politics. Arts students have been known to demonstrate - but 'engineers, economists, commercial studies students, just want to conform - they voted for Berlusconi.'

Prospects: Not enough graduate jobs to go round, especially for architects, designers etc.

SPAIN:

2 million

Distinguishing features: Cheerful down-dressing; chain-store jeans, bright T-shirts, trainers. Not into labels; style-wise, still hungover from Franco austerity. Drink San Miguel, Aguila and Estrella beers (no lime) in big, incredibly noisy groups; no chance of deep putting-the- world-to-rights discussion because they all chatter at once. Clubbing till at least 6am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Spending power: 60 per cent have some sort of grant.

Influences: English music imports, home-grown house and rap. 'We don't read too much,' admits one law student. 'You can see old films at the Culture Institute but most people are going to see Philadelphia, Schindler's List, Reservoir Dogs.' Essential home viewing: Beverley Hills 90210.

Heroes: Picasso; Terry Venables (former manager of FC Barcelona).

Radical element: Confused. Conservative politically, liberal on social issues. 'About four months ago there was a big demonstration. Spanish students want real policy about education. And we got it. I think.'

Prospects: Like everywhere else, engineering good, art history bad.

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