A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: This Week: The Royal College of Music, London

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The Independent Online
Age: 111

History: Founded in 1883 by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, well- known late-Victorian playboy. Prince Albert, hubby of Queen Victoria, had a vision, known as Albertopolis, to bring together the best of arts and science institutions in one square half-mile. Thus the Royal College of Art, the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Albert Hall and Imperial College were collected together next to the museums. They're still there today.

Address: Prince Consort Road, Kensington; surrounded on three sides by Imperial College.

Ambience: Very compact site. Original purpose-built building is listed and contains a barrel-vaulted concert hall much admired by English Heritage. Has been added to over the years. Major addition was in 1965 when more practice rooms and a recital hall were constructed in yellow brick. Centenary appeal in 1986 resulted in new Britten Theatre, designed by Sir Hugh Casson.

Vital statistics: It's a small conservatoire with 550 students including postgraduates. Thirty per cent come from overseas. Male/female ratio is 60:40. Part of the University of London. It validates its own taught and research degrees.

Added value: Exceptional collection of manuscripts, musical instruments and music - including the manuscript of a Mozart piano concerto complete with the great composer's doodlings. He liked to draw smiley faces. Also has Europe's oldest keyboard instrument, a clavicytherium - an upright harpsichord. And the largest collection of pictures of musicians. Public may view by appointment.

Easy to get into? Depends on your performing ability. All applicants are auditioned. Ratio of applicants is 10:1. And you need two good A-levels.

Glittering alumni: Composers Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten; singers Dame Joan Sutherland, Sir Thomas Allen, Sarah Walker; flautist James Galway; conductor Sir Colin Davis; pianists John Lill and Barry Douglas.

Transport links: It is close to South Kensington and Gloucester Road Tube stations and is also well-placed for buses.

Who's the boss? Dr Janet Ritterman, who plays the piano and bassoon and is an expert on female musicians, particularly Clara Schumann.

Teaching: Rated "excellent" under the higher education funding council's old methodology.

Research: Scored a 5 (top mark) in the research assessment exercise.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: The student bar organises events, mainly on Friday nights. The hall of residence in Hammersmith, west London, which houses 170 students and has good practice facilities, is also a social centre. Otherwise there are concerts to attend and work to be done. Students have to practice their music hard. Many do 10-hour days. Academic year culminates in a glamorous summer ball. Rag Week in February is the most energetic time of the year.

Cheap to live in? Room in hall costs pounds 70 a week without food. Rents off campus are pounds 70-pounds 80.

Buzzword: The Nines (that's a reference to the local pub, The Queen's Arms, which is so called because the college's main building contains 98 rooms and the pub is the 99th or the Nines).

Next week: the Royal Northern College of Music