A-Z of universities: Plymouth

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The Independent Online
Age: 172 if you date it from Devonport Mechanics Institute; five as a university.

Incarnations: Six. Started life educating mechanics. Reincarnated as a tech, a college of technology, two polytechnics (Plymouth Poly, then Poly South West) and a university.

Address: Four of them around Devon. Main campus in Plymouth city centre is fairly concrete; Exeter campus is redbrick; Exmouth on the sea; Seale- Hayne (agriculture) near Newton Abbot in tranquil Devon countryside.

Ambience: Students in Plymouth are close to Dartmoor and the sea. Good social scene plus watersports galore. Exeter (art and education) is a pleasant place to be - leafy, good countryside on the doorstep; Exmouth small but with a great beach; Seale-Hayne, beautiful buildings, self- contained so can be claustrophobic.

Vital statistics: Largest university in the South-west, covering much of Devon: more than 20,000 undergraduates and almost 3,000 postgraduates. Good for engineering and marine studies. Applications have taken a hit this year.

Added value: All students have access to the Internet and their own e- mail account as well as scrumpy and Devon cream teas. Good sports facilities especially diving, sailing and hang-gliding. Heaven for surfers. Network of partner colleges enables students to study close to home and progress to the university. Pioneering delivery of lectures to parts of the South- west by satellite.

East to get into? Access students form around 9 per cent of the intake. Those entering with A-levels have an average points score of 14 (a C and a D). But 18 points (three Cs or an A and a B) or more needed for law, architecture, business studies, ecology, geography, environmental science, European studies, psychology and BEng/MEng.

Glittering alumni: Jonathan Haslam (press secretary of John Major, now at the London Metal Exchange); Pat St Clement, EastEnders actress; Diid Osman (bassist with Sleeper).

Transport links: Ideally you need a car. Cars nip around Devon nowadays. The A38 Devon expressway to Plymouth is a fast and direct link to motorway network via Exeter (M5). You can reach Exmouth and Seal-Hayne that way. It takes three-and-a-half hours from London to Plymouth by road or rail.

Who's the boss? Economist Prof John Bull, mover and shaker on the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals.

Teaching rating: 23 out of a maximum of 24 for civil engineering; 22 for food and agriculture; 20 for sociology.

Research: 67 out of 101 in the research assessment exercise. Research is important. Department of politics does outstanding research on local elections. Other rated areas: adaptive and neural systems and quantum computation.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: Amazing number of clubs in Plymouth and students' union has its own nightclub with late licence Friday and Saturday night. Recent gigs have included Craig Charles and Mark Lamarr and bands Carter USM and Credit to the Nation. Life is quieter in Exmouth and Seale-Hayne.

Cheap to live in? Room in hall costs pounds 37-pounds 47 a week. Room in private accommodation pounds 42-pounds 52 a week.

Buzzwords: shredded, trollied and lashed (all mean drunk).

Next week: Portsmouth.