A-Z of universities: Northumbria

NORTHUMBRIA
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The Independent Online
Age: 5

How many lives? Too many to count. Roots date back to the 1800s. In previous incarnations was a college of art and industrial design, a municipal college of commerce and the Rutherford College of Technology. In 1969 became Newcastle Poly.

Address: Two campuses in and around hip Newcastle, one of the world's most swinging cities; a third campus 25 miles away is in historic Carlisle and a fourth 80 miles away in the middle of nowhere, near Morpeth in Northumberland, but that's OK because it's the business school and business students have to work extra hard.

Ambience: City campus bang in the centre of Newcastle is a mix of Victorian municipal and sixties concrete. It houses the students' union, library, computers, sports centre, art gallery and most of the teaching areas. Law is in a former riding school of the Northumberland Hussars.Three miles away Coachlane campus - clean and green - accommodates health, social work and education and is due for expansion. Longhirst Hall near Morpeth is a stately home. Carlisle is a new site, comprising listed buildings, offering business courses (yes, more business) and sport.

Vital Statistics: One of the biggest of the new universities, student numbers have rocketed in recent years and now stand at 22,000 - which has led to complaints of overcrowding. The university has also been growing physically: Carlisle site opened in 1992; Longhirst in 1994. Out in the big wide world it has outposts in Kuala Lumpur and Moscow. More than 50 per cent of students are over 21 and come from the North.

Added value: Big on solar power, though who knows where they find the sun in Newcastle. In 1992 the university began a project to use the power of solar energy. The Northumberland building in the City campus was fitted with the largest solar panel in the country. And big for fashion, its school of fashion being chosen to open the BhS graduate fashion week.

Easy to get into? Yes, on the whole. Work or other experience is accepted instead of formal qualifications. But for law you need three Bs at A-level; business studies three Cs.

Glittering alumni: pop star Sting; TV actor Kevin Whately from Peak Practice and Inspector Morse; Scott Hastings, Scottish rugby international; athlete Steve Cram; cartoonist Steve Bell; Emmanuel Baiyewu, musician, The Lighthouse Family; Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary, Unison.

Transport links: Good for trains: high-speed service links London, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Good too for coaches. Or, if you're feeling flush, you can hop on a plane and fly to London, Dublin or Amsterdam. Brilliant tube system.

Who's the boss? Prof. Gilbert Smith, a former Department of Health bureaucrat, who went to school with Home Secretary Jack Straw.

Teaching rating: Rated 20 out of a maximum of 24 points in sociology; 22 in drama; and 23 in modern languages.

Research: Came 78 out of 101 in the research assessment exercise.

Financial health: Was pounds 1m in the red in 1995-96 but claims to be in the black now.

Nightlife: Hot, hot, hot, this being Newcastle. University has four dance nights a week. Live music is a big attraction in the city. Visit the large Arena or smaller clubs.

Cheap to live in? Yes. University room with food ranges from pounds 52 to pounds 65; self-catering is pounds 40.

Buzz-phrase: Gan ratching (going out on the pick-up).

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