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Age: 501.

Address: north-east Scotland.

Ambience: North Sea oil capital, misty, cold, awesome sea views nearby, packed with granite, Cairngorms, Grampians, mountain huts for manic climbers.

Vital statistics: one of four top Scottish universities, very ancient, older than all English ones except Oxbridge, strong on petroleum geology, safety engineering, land use and marine resource management and, oddly, cultural history.

Easy to get into? No, pretty hard. Three highers, grades AAB needed for arts degree; four highers, grades BBBC for pure science.

Added value: artificial ski-slope, rowing on River Dee, McEwans job-link centre.

Glittering alumni: for the Scots, Kenneth McKellar, the Scottish Pavarotti of his day. For the English, James Naughtie, fearless interrogator on the Today programme. For the nation, Evelyn Glennie, deaf percussionist.

Transport links: it takes six hours 55 minutes from London's King's Cross and the last stretch from Edinburgh is slow. No motorway north of Perth. Try flying.

Buzz-words: fit like (how are you?); nae bad (I'm fine, thank you); quine (girl/lady); loon (boy, man); ken fit a meen? (do you know what I mean?).

Who's the boss? Prof C Duncan Rice, who's come from New York University, so watch out for winds of change.

Then, who's Ian Hamilton? He's the rector, elected by students, famous for stealing (sorry, repatriating) the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey in the Fifties and bringing it back to Scotland. Much loved for his patriotic act.

Teaching rating: rated excellent in sociology by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, highly satisfactory in finance and accounting, theology, philosophy, law, history, history of art and politics.

Research strengths: biological sciences and medicine. Its Regius chair dates from 1497 and was the first chair of medicine in the English-speaking world.

Financial health: overcame problems of Eighties. Now a tightly run ship.

Night life: hopping on Friday and Saturday nights, good student union facilities, night club and bars. Hot spots in town include the Paramount bar for the flush, Franklands night club and The Works for a student- friendly environment.

Cheap to live in? No, bring your


Next week: Abertay University Dundee.