A-Z Of Universities: NORTH LONDON

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The Independent Online

Age: 5 as a university; 101 as a higher education institution.

Incarnations: Three. In 1896, the Northern Polytechnic Institution enrolled its first students. Five-year evening degrees, recognised by the University of London, began in 1911. In the 1970s, Northern Polytechnic merged with North Western to form the Polytechnic of North London. In 1992 it clambered into the university league.

Address: Main centre is on Holloway Road - the grotty end of fashionable Islington - with environmental and social sciences near Highbury Fields.

Ambience: Intensely urban. Holloway Road heaves with lorries. You need a ski mask to ward off the air pollution. University buildings are a rabbit warren of Victorian and modern, some crowded and run down in places, but there has been improvement e.g. new mirror-glass learning centre containing main computing and library facilities. And there's a multi-million pound lottery bid in for a new performing arts centre. Plus planning permission for a new IT techno-tower.

Vital statistics: A former poly with a name for student militancy, its reputation today rests on its access policies. It pioneered access courses aimed at ethnic minorities. Student population is an amazing mix of ages and races. Twenty eight per cent come from abroad, one-half are over 25 and one-third study part-time. Many work to earn money while studying; many have lives outside the university. So, it's not known for wacky 18- year-old high jinks.

Added value: The university has adopted what it calls a "capability curriculum", ie essential skills needed for employment are incorporated into what is taught.

Easy to get into? Yes. Prides itself on taking students without A levels onto foundation courses and giving accreditation for experience. Some courses more difficult to get onto than others. Stiff competition for business, law, leisure and tourism, psychology and theatre studies.

Glittering alumni: pop singers Miki Berenyi (Lush) and Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boy); Candy Atherton MP; Chris Ring, chairman of NatWest Stockbrokers; Jennifer Laing, a chairman of London Saatchis; Garth Crooks, journalist and ex-Spurs footballer; Martyn Lewis, newsreader; Jamie Theakston, TV Live and Kicking presenter.

Transport links: Good for the tube. Bad for cars. You'll just get clamped.

Who's the boss? Brian Roper, who came from Oxford Brookes and is vociferously against the pounds 1,000 a year tuition fee. Mad on rugby and opera.

Teaching rating: Modern languages rated 20 out of a maximum of 24; food science 19; materials technology 19.

Research: Came 78th, tied with Northumbria, in the research assessment exercise. Scored a 4 (top grade is 5) in sociology and women's studies.

Financial health: In the black.

Night-life: The Rocket (capacity 1,000) in the student centre is the main venue for Saturday night gigs. Otherwise the night spots of Islington can be pricey. The area is full of Irish pubs and has some night clubs, eg the Electric Ballroom, the Garage and the Forum.

Cheap to live in: No. University accommodation costs pounds 46-61. Private landlords charge pounds 50-60. Accommodation guaranteed for all first-years who live more than 25 miles from the university.

Buzzword: safe (another word for "cool").

Next week: Northumbria