A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: This Week: University College Worcester

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The Independent Online
Age: From first origins, 55.

History: Originally a teacher-training college. Degrees were awarded by Coventry University. Began to diversify 1977. Since 1997, can award own taught degrees.

Address: On the edge of Worcester in the heart of England. Henwick Grove, St John's, Worcester WR2 6AJ (01905 855000).

Ambience: Green, countrified campus in the suburb of St John's, 15 minutes' walk from city centre. Main building dates from 1963; most of the rest went up later. Campus is self-contained, modern and purpose-built, 42 acres, and bristling with mod cons all within easy reach - floodlit astroturf pitch, halls of residence for first years, laundry houses, networked computer centre with state-of-the-art equipment and software, a shop, creche and students' union with bar. New sports hall going up. Worcester's an historic city on the banks of the Severn, set against the scenic Malvern Hills.

Vital statistics: Small college of higher education with 5,500 students offering undergraduate, postgraduate and HND courses. Subjects include drama, media, nursing, psychology, and sports and exercise. Particular strength is its flexible degree programme, ideal for those who want to study part-time. Twenty per cent of students are in teacher-training. Male-female ratio is one-third to two-thirds. Mature students 44 per cent.

Added value: New graduate school. Exchange programme with Europe means students can have a year's study abroad. Cricket and rugby scholarships for those interested.

Easy to get into? For first degrees you need a minimum of five GCSE passes, two at A-level. Or you can get in via a foundation course. Mature students admitted depending on background and experience.

Glittering alumni: Jacqui Smith, schools minister and MP for nearby Redditch; Jo Hodges, Mayor of Worcester; Matt Beechey, world-class rower now taking part in trials for Sydney Olympics.

Transport links: Two railway stations close by. M5 is a few minutes from city centre. Regular bus service plies between town and campus.

Who's the boss? Dorma Urwin, who chairs the Standing Conference of Principals, which means she's a mover and shaker.

Teaching: Rated 20 out of 24 in psychology; 21 in art and design, and sociology. Rated good by Ofsted in the primary teacher-training sweep; in secondary teacher-training rated adequate in history, adequate/good in foreign languages, music and physical education.

Research: Beat six new universities in the 1996 research assessment exercise. Achieved 3b (top grade is 5) in education.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: Two bars with MTV and Sky Sports make the union a popular place. A sell-out valedictory ball, the 1970s Christmas disco, a trip to the Isle of Man student festival of sport and the annual Amsterdam weekend are high spots of the year.

Cheap to live in? It costs pounds 35-pounds 50 for an en suite room in hall. Local rented accommodation is pounds 40-pounds 50 a week. Both types without food.

Buzzword: Boo-lashed (less than sober).

Lucy Hodges

Next week: Writtle College, Essex