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Age: Four.

Not much more than a toddler then? Don't be cheeky. Parts of it go back to last century. Its most ancient bit opened in 1858 as a school of art founded by the Victorian art critic John Ruskin. In previous incarnations it was Anglia Poly, Essex Institute and Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology.

Address: all over the shop - Cambridge, Chelmsford, Danbury Park and Brentwood in Essex.

Ambience: flat, ie not many hills, this being East Anglia. Otherwise difficult to pinpoint because the university is split into four sites with more than 30 regional and associate colleges throughout the region. Cambridge busy, lively, academic. Students enjoy a sometimes uneasy, sometimes mutually rewarding relationship with the nobs at Cambridge University. Chelmsford has friendly, family feel, and is good for sport and nature trails.

Vital statistics: all courses are modular. Many first-degree students study a language and spend six months or more abroad. Formal exchange links with five European universities/colleges.

Easy to get into? Yes, relatively, if you have a B or C in the relevant subject.

Added value: strong links with industry. Learning resource centre in Chelmsford was runner-up in the Independent on Sunday's Green Building of the Year award. Active drama society with own theatre, the Mumford. Hot on sport, especially hockey and rowing at which it excels, even against Cambridge University.

Glittering alumni: pop star Adam Ant, cartoonist Ronald Searle, TV presenter Mike Smith, writer Tom Sharpe and Patricia Scotland, Britain's first black woman QC.

Transport links: not bad. Frequent trains to London, decent roads.

Buzzwords: spacious (cool), pear-shaped (cock-eyed).

Who's the boss: former mandarin Mike Malone-Lee, who trod the corridors of power in the Department of Health, Home Office and Lord Chancellor's Department.

Teaching rating: excellent in music, English and social work.

Research strengths: biomedical science, animal behaviour, air quality, environmental studies, sociological studies in science and technology, rural and leisure studies, planning and design, educational multimedia etc.

Financial health: OK, according to the university.

Night life: hopping, particularly in Cambridge. Students' union puts on something most nights. Thereby attracts guests from Cambridge University.

Cheap to live in? No, plenty to splash out on.

Next week: Aston University.