a-z of universities Leeds Metropolitan

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Age: Four or 124, depending on where you start.

How many lives? Countless. Was Leeds Poly, and before that had incarnations as various colleges of technology, commerce and arts. The college of technology was the oldest, formed in 1824 as the Leeds Mechanics Institute.

Address: Two campuses - one in the city centre next to its older sister, Leeds University, the other at Beckett Park, a picturesque site three miles to the north. On the Internet its website is http://www.lmu.ac.uk/.

Ambience: Students have fun in this hectic, partying city, surprising for a university with so many mature undergraduates. The city-centre campus is a jumble of new and old, with three concrete tower blocks. The central building is a Sixties block clad in blue to make it easier on the eye. Beckett Park is 100 acres of woodland with panoramic views.

Vital statistics: A huge university with 25,000 students. Way back it was for artisans. Now it educates the new workforce - teachers, engineers, health professionals and IT specialists. There is a big part-time involvement with students from the city and the region. Proud to receive the Queen's Anniversary Award for work with small businesses last year.

Added value: Stellar sports facilities (all at Beckett Park) include gymnastics centre, swimming pool, squash courts, athletics and playing fields, all-weather pitch, multigym, weights room, running track, tennis courts and regular aerobics classes. State-of-the-art learning centre contains 2,300 study spaces (desks to you and me), 500 of which give access to computing or multimedia facilities, plus 500,000 books, and access to over 70 CD-Rom information stations networked across campus.

Easy to get into? Most difficult for subjects such as physiotherapy, law and sports science. Grades required are around three Cs at A-level.

Glittering alumni: Singer Mark Almond; Sir Henry Moore; journalist Keith Waterhouse; the late Ron Pickering, sports announcer; writer Jack Higgins; Glen Baxter, cartoonist.

Transport links: Centre of the United Kingdom, at the crossroads of the M1 and M62. The train to London takes just over two hours.

Who's the boss? Unstuffy, media-friendly Leslie Wagner, 54, adviser to the Chief Rabbi, and former vice-chancellor of the University of North London.

Teaching rating: In quality assessments by the Higher Education Funding Council the university received (out of a maximum of 24): 22 for film and television, 19 for modern languages, 19 for public relations, and 17 for general engineering.

Research: Came 82nd out of 101 in the research assessment exercise. Eight research groups awarded grade 3 (out of a maximum of 5). The university applies research to problems faced by industry, commerce, the professions, voluntary and public sectors.

Financial health: Claims to be in the black. But is overfunded compared with some comparable institutions, so is having to cut back.

Nightlife: University has a reputation as a major tour date, overshadowing its neighbour. Recent gigs have included Kula Shaker, Divine Comedy, Boo Radleys, Lemonheads, Reef, and Fun Lovin' Criminals. Plus the city has clubs, cinemas, West Yorkshire Playhouse, festivals, football, rugby and cricket.

Cheap to live in? Cheaper than the south of England. University accommodation averages pounds 48 a week; private rented pounds 42.

Buzz-phase: Top night out (regular expression of contentment).

Next week: Leicester