A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: University College Northampton

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Age: 81 from first origins; 23 as currently constituted.

History: Founded from a marriage of Northampton's colleges of art, technology and education, which formed Nene College of Higher Education in 1975. Originally degrees were awarded by Leicester University. Now the college has the power to award its own taught degrees. Changed its name and became a university college last February.

Address: Two main campuses in Northampton plus satellite hospital sites. Main Park campus is on the outskirts of town; Avenue campus closer in.

Ambience: Main campus combines hi-tech architecture with rolling landscape and woodland. Avenue campus very 1930s - all corridors and split levels - so take a map. Gems include light and airy art gallery, sound studio and art and engineering workshops. Both campuses have own student union offices, bars and canteen - and both are very friendly.

Vital statistics: Big college with 8,000 full-time and 2,000 part-time students. Wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Plans to apply for research degree awarding powers. Education students are almost 10 per cent of all full-timers. Male/female ratio 41:59.

Added value: You can study leather technology at degree level - uniquely in the English-speaking world, this being the centre of the British shoe industry (ever thought of where your Doc Martens come from?).

Easy to get into? For combined degrees you need C, D at A-level; for single honours B, D (higher for law and occupational therapy). Students on access courses, GNVQs welcome.

Glittering alumni: Des O'Connor, who did bricklaying at the old college of technology; Max Griggs, owner of Doctor Martens shoes; Jonathan Waller, artist; Andrew Collins, print and broadcast journalist.

Transport links: Two trains an hour to London Euston and Birmingham New Street (journey takes one hour). Or you can drive - 20 minutes to the M1. Or take the coach. Free buses between campuses and town centre.

Who's the boss? Dr S Martin Gaskell, urban historian.

Teaching: Scored 18 out of 24 in American studies and electrical and electronic engineering; 19 in civil engineering; 20 in sociology; 21 in communication and media studies; 22 in leather technology. Teacher training was rated sound to good by Ofsted. In 1997/98 all areas of primary training were rated good.

Research: Achieved 3b in leather technology and education (top grade is 5) in the research assessment exercise.

Financial health: In the red in 1996-97, according to Noble's Higher Education Financial Yearbook. The college says this deficit is only a technicality.

Nightlife: Virgin multiplex cinema, bowls, two theatres. On campus The Venue and George's host club nights, local bands.

Cheap to live in? En suite room in hall will set you back pounds 53 a week (pounds 55 for 1999/2000). Room with shared bathroom pounds 42-51 (pounds 44-53 for 1999/2000). Average private rent is pounds 38-pounds 42.

Buzz-phrase: Cheers m'duck.

Next week: The North East Wales Institute.