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Age: 42.

Incarnations: Five. The university traces roots back to the school of art in 1855. In 1863 it spawned a school of science; in 1893 it became the Exeter technical and university extension college; in 1922 it acquired the title University College of the South West of England; and in 1955 it became a university in its own right.

Address: Three campuses. Streatham for arts, science, social studies, law and engineering. Across the city is St Luke's, home to the school of education and the writer and satirist Professor Ted Wragg. Carry on down the A30 to Cornwall to find the Cambourne school of mines in Redruth.

Ambience: This is the "green welly" university famous for attracting Sloanes. But staff and students reject the epithet, claiming a healthy mix. Glorious, safe environment, mostly red brick buildings, sweeping drives, mature rhododendron bushes set in 245-acre garden estate 1 mile from city centre. Beautiful beaches, Devon cream teas and Dartmoor close at hand.

Vital statistics: A popular university because of its sublime setting, Exeter can offer academic standards, superior sports facilities, a gentle climate and the Northcott theatre, which provides for amateur productions. Nearly all first-years in hall; some purpose-built; others 19th-century, less comfortable but easier on the eye. Limited parking.

Added value: Big European links with the chance to study abroad on most undergraduate programmes. New, pounds 1m business projects scheme allows students and graduates to carry out real business projects for local companies. New school of business and economics adds to university's reputation for turning out high-earning City types. Soon-to-be-opened Bill Douglas centre created with Lottery money to house cinema and pre-cinema material. New course in film studies being developed alongside.

Easy to get into? Nope. Highish grades needed for most subjects. AAB for law, BBB/BCC for English, BCC for engineering.

Glittering alumni: Wensley Hayden Baillie, one of Britain's wealthiest men; John Welsby, chairman of British Railways Board; John Roberts, Post Office chief executive; Stewart Purvis, chief executive of ITN; Paul Jackson, producer of The Young Ones and Red Dwarf; Samantha Smith, tennis player; 42 rugby internationals including David Sole and Richard Hill, former Scotland and England rugby captains.

Transport links: Have improved: M5 on the doorstep and London less than three hours away by train.

Who's the boss? Sir Geoffrey Holland, formerly permanent secretary at the Department of Education. Reputed not to see eye to eye with Education Secretary of the time, John Patten.

Teaching rating: Out of a maximum of 24, German got 24, French 22, Italian 22, sociology 21, drama 22 and materials technology 21.

Research: fell down in the 1996 research assessment exercise: came 46th. Departments with top grade 5 are accountancy, applied mathematics, classics and ancient history, economics, and hospital-based clinical subjects.

Financial health: Lost money in the research assessment exercise, so is having to cut pounds 2.4m, ie 60 academic job losses.

Night life: Popular student bars, Ram and Ewe; on-campus night-club "The Lemmy"; regular visits by bands; big summer ball in June featuring top acts such as Blur and Supergrass.

Cheap to live in? Self-catering accommodation starts at pounds 40.95 a week. Places in hall start at pounds 77.35 (full board).

Buzz sentence: Life's a beach.

Next week: Glamorgan University