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Age: Celebrated its 30th birthday last year as a university.

Incarnations: Innumerable. Its origins date from the last century and Acton and Shoreditch technical colleges. In 1995 it merged with the West London Institute of Higher Education, which in turn traces its roots back to 1798.

Phew! Sounds huge: Sure is. Has mushroomed recently from 3,000 to 12,000 students.

Address: Four sites in west London: Uxbridge, Runnymede, Twickenham and Osterley. Could be called Heathrow University.

Ambience: Depends on the campus. Uxbridge has mellowed since Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange was filmed there more than 20 years ago. Sixties brutalist architecture has been softened by inspired landscaping, acres of flowers and mature trees. Could even be called pretty. Runnymede, near Egham in Surrey, where the St Trinian's films were made, enjoys acres of parkland, ancient trees and rabbits cavorting on the lawns. Twickenham is a pleasant mix of listed and modern buildings bordering the Thames at Richmond Lock and Osterley is near the enchanting Osterley Park. All campuses largely traffic-free.

Vital statistics: As one of the colleges of advanced technology established after the Robbins report, it comes out of a technological tradition. Initial strong commitment to science and technology has given way to more rounded profile as it has incorporated other colleges. Now has as much social science, arts and humanities as science and technology.

Added value: Employability. Home of the thin-sandwich course, four years including two periods of work experience. Has topped the FT graduate employment league table six times in the past 10 years. Hot for sport. Facilities include new sports hall, two international-size basketball courts, eight badminton courts, two rugby pitches, two football pitches, plus floodlit training, cricket pitch, lacrosse pitch, tennis courts and athletics track.

Glittering alumni: Jo Brand, comedienne and Independent columnist; Judi Clements, director of MIND; John McGrath, chief executive, Grand Met; and the athletes Alan Pascoe, Kathy Cook and Brian Hooper.

Transport links: All campuses within easy reach of London, Heathrow and motorways. Uxbridge is at the end of the Metropolitan Line. Runnymede is close to the BR station at Egham and junction 13 of the M25. Osterley is on the Piccadilly Line and Twickenham can be reached via St Margaret's BR station.

Buzzwords: Discow and Moosic (what happens on Friday nights).

The boss? Professor Michael Sterling, 50, an electrical and electronic engineer appreciated by staff for being relaxed, cheerful and hands-off.

Teaching rating: Has scored well in general engineering (22 points out of a maximum of 24) and design. Social sciences also strong. Ofsted classified primary mathematics as "very good".

Research strengths: A middling university, came 54th out of 102 in the research assessment exercise. Design was awarded highest rating of 5*. Anthropology got a 5.

Financial health: A good housekeeper, makes enough surplus to finance essential capital expenditure.

Night life: Plenty of live bands including recently D.Ream, The Divine Comedy, Alison Moyet and Stone Roses.

Cheap to live in? What you would expect for London. En suite room in a new hall on the Uxbridge campus costs pounds 50 a week. A pint of McEwans will set you back pounds 1.40p in the union bar.

Next week: The University of Buckingham.