A-Z of Higher Education Colleges

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Age: 109.

History: Founded as an art class at Rutlish School for boys, where John Major failed to shine at O-level. Rehoused on its present site in 1940.

Address: Merton Hall Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 3QA. Tel: 0181-408 5000.

Ambience: Far enough from the centre of London to feel like a small town; close enough to the galleries and the bright lights not to feel remote. Original redbrick building - which went up in 1939 - was purpose- built. It has been added to - there's a new library, a theatre, sculpture studios, and an annexe for the foundation department in Palmerston Road.

Vital statistics: Small specialist school with 800 students. Degrees are validated by the University of Surrey. It runs a foundation diploma and an orientation course in art and design, as well as five theatre degrees - in theatre design, costume design, costume interpretation, technical arts design and technical arts interpretation. In addition, there are fine art degrees in painting and sculpture as well as MAs. Ratio of men to women is 30:70. Mature students: 45 per cent.

Added value: Has opened a new research centre for postgraduates opposite the school, containing a seminar room and common room.

Easy to get into? All applicants who put the school as first choice are interviewed. To qualify for the degree course they must have done a foundation course or equivalent.

Glittering alumni: Turner Prize winner Tony Cragg, a sculptor; three- time Oscar winner for costume design, James Acheson, who designed the costumes for The Last Emperor; Richard Hudson, set designer, winner of the Olivier award and designer for The Lion King on Broadway; Charles Knode, costume designer for Braveheart and Blade Runner; Anthony Ward, of the Royal Shakespeare Company, who designed Lionel Bart's Oliver!; Raymond Briggs, illustrator of The Snowman; Melanie Comber, a recent painting graduate, showing at the Raw Gallery in New York; Lorraine Ebdon, head of wardrobe at the Royal Opera House.

Transport links: Very easy to get to by train from Waterloo, or by Tube on the Northern and District lines. It's 20 minutes from central London. And you can be in Paris or Brussels in three hours.

Who's the boss? Professor Roderick Bugg, sculptor, formerly dean of art at Central St Martin's.

Teaching: Has not been rated yet by the Quality Assurance Agency. One half of all those teaching at the school are part-time visiting artists. All staff are professional artists and designers.

Research: Achieved top grade of 5 in art and design in the 1996 research assessment exercise.

Financial health: In the black.

Night-life: Social life is up to the students. Active students' union runs social evenings with bands.

Cheap to live in? Wimbledon is not cheap. No accommodation is provided by the school. But the housing officer helps students to find private accommodation. You can find a private room for pounds 60-pounds 65 a week.

Buzz-phrase: On the edge of something big (how students see themselves).

Lucy Hodges

Next week: University College, Worcester