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Age: 23

History: Born in 1975 from a marriage between four colleges: two techs - Denbighshire College in Wrexham and Kelsterton College in Connah's Quay - and a teacher training college and art college, both in Wrexham. The Institute gave up its Deeside site six years ago and stopped all further education. Now concentrates exclusively on higher education.

Address: Two sites: main one is Plas Coch (Red Manor); art and design 500 yards away.

Ambience: Wrexham, close to the English/Welsh border, is surrounded by gorgeous countryside. Described as a bit of a cultural desert - nearest theatres are at Chester and Mold. But Newi campus has most of what you need - student village, students' union, new Sportlot-funded sports centre and artificial turf pitch - and some amazing Fifties architecture. Art and design is in the old Wrexham Infirmary, wonderful Victorian building with Doric columns.

Vital Statistics: Total student numbers 4,500, almost half of which are part-timers. Degrees are validated by the University of Wales. Institute hopes to gain its own taught degree-awarding powers in the next year and to become the University of Wales College, Wrexham.

Added value: Small class sizes. There is a strong vocational emphasis in courses, eg teacher training, nursing, social work, engineering, computing, business and sports science.

Easy to get into? You need 10 to 12 points at A-level for most degrees (CC - DDE), and 14 points for teacher training. The Institute relies on Clearing to fill some of its places.

Glittering alumni: John Elfed Jones, former chairman of Welsh Water and HTV, who has been the driving force behind the development of a committee structure for the new Welsh Assembly; Trevor Jones, managing director of Pilkington Optronics.

Transport links: Not brilliant. A car helps, and car parking spaces are plentiful. If you're catching the train from London, you have to change at Crewe and then again at Chester.

Who's the boss? Prof John Williams, top solid-state chemist, formerly head of chemistry at Umist and former amateur international soccer player for Wales.

Teaching: Diploma courses in biosciences rated excellent by the Welsh higher education funding council; everything else satisfactory. Primary teacher training rated satisfactory by the Office for Her Majesty's Chief Inspector in Wales; satisfactory also for secondary teacher training in business studies.

Research: Scored 3b (top grade is 5) in chemistry in the research assessment exercise. Beat 11 new universities in the league table.

Financial health: Has been working through a financial recovery plan with the Welsh higher education funding council and says that it's now operating at a surplus.

Nightlife: Live bands do come and there are regular discos on campus. Big parties at the end of each term. Everyone dresses up for the Summer Ball.

Cheap to live in?: You pay pounds 37 a week for a shared standard room and pounds 54 for en-suite single room.

Buzz-greeting: Iechyd da (your good health)

Next week: The Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

On 30 May, `The Independent on Sunday' will publish the A-Z of Universities - an updated compilation of all the columns in this very popular series which first appeared in `The Independent's' weekly education section