A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: The College of Guidance Studies

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Age: 50 this year.

Does that presage a knees-up? Yes, there's a big event next week which will be attended by Sevenoaks MP, Michael Fallon, and another do on 3 June at the Cafe Royal when BBC broadcaster Laurie Taylor will speak.

History: Set up in 1948 after one Ida Groves persuaded Kent County Council that an institution was needed to train youth employment officers. It had 19 students, of whom 17 graduated in the first year. Originally housed in Lamorbey Park, Sidcup, it moved to its current home in 1967.

Address: Hextable, a hamlet on the edge of Swanley in Kent.

Ambience: Quiet, not to say sleepy spot. Main building is a large Victorian mansion - two houses linked together - which started life as a women's horticultural college. The lovely well-kept gardens back and front contain flowers, shrubs and trees, as befits its horticultural roots. Very rural - village green across the road, plus local store and church hall, but no pub. You have to drive a short distance to a pub.

Vital statistics: Small specialist college - the smallest higher education college in the country - providing training for people involved in guidance here and abroad. Students are aged from early twenties up to fifties. The college is also engaged in conferences, research, consultancy, short courses and continuing professional development. Although the college was established to run the full- and part-time diploma in careers guidance, it is now moving into NVQs in advice, guidance and counselling, and working with charities and commercial companies such as Reed. There are two intakes to the full-time diploma annually, with each one containing 30 students.

Added value: Delicious home-cooked food, especially flapjacks. Students, watch your waistlines!

Easy to get into? You need a degree or relevant experience.

Glittering alumnus: Colin Thompson, group chief executive of Careers Enterprise Group, which manages the careers service in a number of local authorities.

Transport links: It takes 20 minutes to reach Swanley Station by train from Victoria. Then it's five to 10 minutes by cab or bus. Many students drive to college.

Who's the boss? Former careers adviser Alaine Sommerville.

Financial health: In the red in each of the last two years, for which figures are available in Noble's Higher Education Financial Yearbook - pounds 17,000 in the red in 1996-97 and pounds 15,000 in the red the previous year.

Night life: Being postgraduate, the students are not great boppers, though they like a quiet drink in a lovely country pub. Local nightclub is called Deja Vu. On a summer's evening you can play golf at the local Birchwood Park golf club.

Cheap to live in? Room in hall of residence costs pounds 52.50 a week. If you want to stay one night, it costs pounds 15; subsequent nights are pounds 12.50. Cost of full-time diploma in careers guidance is pounds 1,900 but you can get vocational tax relief. A few get bursaries from the Local Government Management Board.

Buzz-instruction: Let COGS be your careers guide (COGS being - you guessed - The College of Guidance Studies).

Next week: Harper Adams.