A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: Rose Bruford College, South- East London

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Age: 49

History: Founded in 1950 by one Rose Bruford, a dynamo who taught drama at Central School and at the Royal Academy of Music. She set up her own school because she thought she could do better herself. She developed a unique course combining actor training with teacher training. And she believed that top-class actors should be teachers and vice versa. The college pioneered the first acting degree in 1976.

Address: The main site is Lamorbey Park in Bexley, south-east London, 25 minutes from Charing Cross by train. The second is in Greenwich, five minutes from the Millennium Dome.

Ambience: The Bexley site is the former home of the Malcolm family, divine 18th-century parkland with squirrels, foxes, ducks and a lake; Greenwich is the opposite - gritty inner-city in a former secondary school. But Greenwich will soon be history. A new pounds 12m building programme, due to end in 2002, will merge both sites in Bexley. The college tries to recreate the atmosphere of a working theatre, so many hours are spent on practical work, especially in the new theatre in the round, the Rose.

Vital statistics: Small college of higher education. Claims to be the largest drama college in western Europe with 900 students (550 full-time, 350 distance learning). Degrees validated by the University of Manchester, but the college is seeking its own taught degree-awarding powers. The male/ female ratio is 60:40. Mature students make up 36 per cent.

Added value: It offers the only opera studies degree course in Europe which you can do only by distance learning.

Easy to get into? You need two A-level passes or equivalent. Mature students with talent but without standard qualifications are encouraged to apply.

Glittering alumni: Actors galore: Gary Oldman, who played Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK and directed the film Nil by Mouth; Tom Baker (Dr Who); Cathy Shipton (Duffy in Casualty); Freddie Jones; Nerys Hughes; Ray Fearon; Diane Louise Jordan; Pam St Clement (Pat in EastEnders); Barbara Kellerman and Barry Kilerby (Mr Blobby).

Transport: OK. Both sites are accessible by train and car.

Who's the boss? Prof Robert Ely, who has taught theatre design, acting and directing and was a professional actor.

Teaching: Scored 20 out of 24 for drama, dance and cinematics.

Research: Did not enter the 1996 research assessment exercise. Has only begun to take research students in the past 12-18 months.

Financial health: In the red in 1995-96 and again in 1996-97, according to Noble's Higher Education Financial Yearbook. University refutes those figures. Says it's in the black and 1998 saw 40 per cent increase in funding from the Higher Education Funding Council.

Nightlife: No campus bar because it's so small. In Bexley students use Ye Olde Black Horse or the Spotted Cow at Hither Green.

Cheap to live in? A room in college costs pounds 60-65 a week (no food). Off- campus rents start at pounds 40.

Buzz-sentence: I'm going up the Creek (I'm going to the Creek Road site)

Next week: The Royal Academy of Music