a-z of universities: Paisley

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The Independent Online
Age: five as a university; 101 if you count back to the founding of Paisley technical college and school of art.

Address: two campuses: one in the centre of Paisley town, only seven miles from Glasgow; the other 30 miles away in Ayr, on the coast - home of Robbie Burns. A third mini-campus is springing up in Dumfries.

Ambience: Paisley campus, spanning 20 acres, is mainly concrete blocks linked by walkways - functional and not very picturesque. But you can feast your eyes on ancient buildings close by eg the neo-Gothic Coats Memorial Church and 12th-century Paisley Abbey. Town is a thriving arts centre as befits the place which invented paisley shawls. But there has been a drugs problem - which the university says has mostly been cleared up. Craigie campus in Ayr, containing Education and Nursing, is lush but out of the way.

Vital statistics: many of the 10,000 students are local. Courses are strongly vocational, with a technological edge, and large numbers of students are on sandwich courses. There are close links with industry and commerce, particularly with computer giants IBM and Digital. All students receive computer training.

Added value: Paisley is Scotland's leader in using credit accumulation and transfer, enabling students to piece together a degree in different places, day or evening, and over a lengthy period. Students can spend up to a year on an industrial placement - earning a salary - as part of their degree. Good for sports fanatics: a new pounds 2 million sports centre with squash, tennis, all-weather pitches and gym has just opened.

Easy to get into? Fairly. As a new university it accepts students without A-levels or Scottish Highers. More difficult for subjects like real estate management (four Bs at Highers or three Cs at A-level), business and management (three Bs at Highers, three Cs at A-level) and teacher training (four Bs at Highers).

Glittering alumni: Gavin Hastings, former captain of Scottish rugby team; John McPhall Labour MP; Graeme Obree, cyclist; Douglas Dryburgh, captain of British male curling team in the Winter Olympics.

Transport links: Paisley campus is 10 minutes from the centre of Glasgow by train, with the M8 one mile from town. Good for buses but not for bikes because of hills. Craigie campus is more difficult to reach - it's 15 minutes from the local train station, though there are buses.

Who's the boss? Economist Prof Richard Shaw who likes to trek in the Himalayas.

Teaching rating: highly satisfactory in Cellular and Molecular Biology, Sociology, Teacher Education, Social Work and Mechanical Engineering; satisfactory in Accounting and Finance and Economics.

Research: came 93rd out of 101 in the research assessment exercise.

Financial health: in the black.

Nightlife: not much of a student scene though a new venue (capacity 1,000) may brace things up musically. The social life has improved in Paisley - there's now a Cajun bar and a Polish vodka bar for those whose taste buds need challenging. For more variety head for Glasgow, one of the UK's hottest clubbing cities. Otherwise there's the Arts Centre for films, theatre and music. One formal ball a year.

Cheap to live in? One of the cheapest places in Scotland. Weekly price for a room in hall ranges from pounds 26-pounds 32. Private rent about pounds 40 a week.

Buzzword: Buddie (what local people are called).

Next week: Plymouth

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