A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: Harper Adams University College

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The Independent Online
Age: 97

History: Set up in 1901 as an agricultural college by Thomas Harper Adams, a local landowner. Three years ago it won the power to award its own taught degrees. Last year it applied to change its name, dropping the "agricultural" and acquiring "university".

Address: Rural Shropshire, two miles from the market town of Newport.

Ambience: Quiet and bucolic, as befits a college with its roots in the land. Nearest train station is 10 miles away - good for those who shun crowds. Red-brick Edwardian teaching and admin building; modern learning resources centre, labs, halls of residence and students' union. College has its own 550-acre farm, including woodland, where student farmers practise the craft. Very sporty.

Vital statistics: The biggest agricultural college in England with more than 1,600 full-time students, most of them on degree courses. Heavy contingent from Ireland. Growing numbers of postgraduates and part-timers. Production agriculture accounts for 46 per cent of students, but there are also degrees in marketing and business management, land and countryside management, agricultural engineering, environmental protection and animal health. Male/female ratio is 65:35. Majority of courses are sandwich, so students spend a year out working for companies such as John Deer, CIBA Geigy and Marks & Spencer.

Added value: Sport. The college is home to the semi-finalist rugby team in the student European championships, and the third-time British Universities' championship team in clay pigeon shooting and British Universities' champion downhill mountain biker. There are 40 acres of playing fields, sports hall, pool, squash and tennis courts. Local area is brilliant for outdoor types; Welsh mountains to the west, Peak District to the east, Lake District to the north. Proud of its job record.

Easy to get into? For a degree, you need two A-level passes. All applicants are interviewed.

Glittering alumni: Tony Pexton, vice-president of the National Farmers' Union; Helen Browning, spokesperson for the organic farming movement; Ruth Archer of The Archers; Barbara Woodhouse, the late dog trainer.

Transport links: Car comes in handy. Failing that, you take the bus to Newport, Telford or Shrewsbury. Local train stations are Telford - 10 miles away - and Stafford.

Who's the boss? Welsh speaker, Professor Wynne Jones. Sometimes heard on Radio 4's Farming Today.

Teaching: Scored 23 out of 24 in agriculture and related subjects.

Research: Did better than 22 new universities in the 1996 research assessment exercise. Awarded a 3b (top grade is 5) in agriculture.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: Students' union organises social events, including live music, laserquest and a very grand summer ball. College band, the Wynne Jones Experience, has an enthusiastic following. Nearest cinema is in Telford.

Cheap to live in? You get a study bedroom, all weekday meals and clean laundry delivered to your door for an average of pounds 74 a week. Local rented accommodation costs pounds 35 a week (without food).

Buzzphrase: Harper Spirit - famed, often feared, on the rugby pitches of the UK and Ireland.

Next week: Homerton College Cambridge