A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: The Surrey Institute of Art & Design

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Age: 129 from first incarnations; five in its current name.

History: Roots go back to founding of Farnham School of Art and Guildford School of Art in 1870. Those two merged to make West Surrey College of Art and Design. That gobbled up Epsom School of Art and Design in 1994.

Address: Two campuses, one in Farnham (14.25 acres), the other in Epsom (eight acres), both in leafy Surrey and 30 miles apart.

Ambience: Both campuses are near their town centres and within reach of London. Nearby is gorgeous countryside. Epsom, home of the racecourse, is more suburban, with a theatre, a leisure centre and swimming pool. Farnham - which houses two-thirds of students - has a golf course and sports pitches in the Farnham country park.

Vital statistics: The largest specialist art college in Britain after the London Institute, it has 3,000 students and the power to award its own degrees. Courses include animation, fine art, packaging design, graphic design, film and video, textiles, fashion and journalism. The University of Brighton validates research degrees.

Added value: Business and professional studies, taught across all degree programmes, covers things such as sponsorship and funding, career planning and development, copyright and contract law. Farnham campus will expand shortly to get a new library and learning resource centre.

Easy to get into? You need A-levels (14-16 points) and/or an art and design foundation diploma.

Glittering alumni: Linda Barker from Changing Rooms, the hit BBC1 interior design programme; Dave Bonaguedi, art director of Channel 4; Daniel Greaves, the Hollywood Oscar-winning animator; Lucinda Alford, former fashion editor of The Observer; and Nargess Gharani and Vanja Strok, fashion designers at Gharani Strok.

Transport links: Commuting from central London takes 20 minutes by train to Epsom and 45 minutes to Farnham.

Who's the boss? Professor Norman Taylor, chairman of the Standing Conference of Principals and an admirer of the 19th-century French painter Georges Seurat.

Teaching: Scored 17 out of 24 for communications and media studies; 21 for art and design.

Research: Awarded 3b in art, architecture and design in the 1996 research assessment exercise. West Surrey has not traditionally had research students, but this autumn it is registering PhD and MPhil students for the first time.

Financial health: In the black.

Night-life: Entertainments are getting better. Leavers is the big ball; there's also Christmas and Freshers' ball. In 1998, the bar at Farnham was renamed the Glasshouse and a new bar was opened at Epsom. The students' union organises a coach service from Epsom to Farnham so students can visit the Glasshouse.

Cheap to live in? Single rooms at the award-winning student village at Farnham cost pounds 41-pounds 51 a week; shared rooms pounds 32 a week; private rentals pounds 45-pounds 65 a week.

Buzz-phrase: It's the gospel (according to the students' union handbook).

Next week: Swansea Institute of Higher Education