a-z of universities: Lampeter

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The Independent Online
Age: 175.

Incarnations: three. Started out in 1822 as St David's University College, Lampeter; in 1971 became part of the University of Wales; in 1995 changed its name to University of Wales, Lampeter.

Address: in a little market town deep in south-west Wales, so remote it doesn't have a train station.

Ambience: elegant listed building dominates the town. Countryside consists of rugged hills (whence the stones of Stonehenge were cut) and 20 miles away the sea with dolphins, seals and air to die for. A friendly place - everyone knows each other - and a great spot for anyone who wants to chill out.

Vital statistics: the oldest university college in England and Wales, after Oxbridge. And the smallest university institution in the United Kingdom, with 1,600 full-time students, the vast majority of whom (80 per cent) come from outside Wales. Like American liberal arts colleges, it specialises in arts and humanities (no science or engineering). Which makes it unique.

Added value: unusual collection of books and manuscripts held in the original 19th-century founder's library including 12th-century Bible. The anthropology department set up and runs the Tairona Heritage Trust to help the Kogi Indians of Columbia buy their homelands. Centre for Islamic Studies being housed in brand new building paid for by Sheik Said Foundation in the United Arab Emirates.

Easy to get into? Depends on the subject. B, C and E at A-level required for English and archaeology; a C and two Ds for geography.

Glittering alumni: George Austin, sometimes controversial Archdeacon of York; Andrew Curl, vice-president of Smith Kline Beecham; Adrian Mourby, novelist and head of drama, BBC Wales; Dic Edwards, playwright; Oliver Gray, founder/director of the Illyria Theatre Company, the most extensive network of outdoor Shakespeare; Sue Slipman, formerly of the National Council for One Parent Families, now doyenne of the Gas Consumers Council; Sulak Sivaraksa, Thai dissident; Jack Higgins, thriller writer.

Transport links: buses are your best - and only - bet if you don't have your own car. Travel by bus to Carmarthen or Aberystwyth and then catch the train on to London, Cardiff or Birmingham.

Who's the boss? Modern historian Keith Robbins, who likes to garden, walk and listen to music.

Teaching rating: rated excellent in archaeology by the higher education funding council for Wales and highly satisfactory in other departments assessed so far.

Research: came 60th out of 101 in the research assessment exercise, bottom of the league table for the "old" universities, with its most highly rated department theology and religious studies which received a grade 4 (maximum is 5). But 93 per cent of staff are actively engaged in research.

Financial health: claims to be solvent.

Nightlife: students make their own entertainment. Aberystwyth is the local big time. The students' union has three discos a week in the union hall, which is being extended and will be completed by the end of the year in time for the Christmas bash. A film club shows big-name movies and cult pics and arranges a weekly cinema trip to Swansea. The town has 12 inns and hostelries. Theatre, mainly in Welsh, is 15 minutes away.

Cheap to live in? Yes. It costs pounds 35-pounds 40 a week to live in student or private accommodation.

Buzzword: Unigryw, pronounced inigrew (Welsh for unique). Next week: Lancaster

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