A-Z of Universities: Southampton

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Age: 138, if you count from the birth of the Hartley Institution in Southampton; 46, if you count from the birth of the university.

History: Founded by local philanthropist and son of a millionaire wine merchant, it was an attempt to bring culture to the city. Hartley Institution became Hartley University College and moved out of the city centre in 1919. Received its university charter in 1952.

Address: Seven campuses - one just outside the city centre, five others in Southampton, one in Winchester (Winchester School of Art).

Ambience: Grassy and attractive. Earliest buildings - from the Thirties - are redbrick; rest are Basil Spence - pale marble, granite, mosaic tiled jobs. It has grown hugely in the 1990s, spawning post-modern buildings for the arts faculty (1996) and occupational therapy and physiotherapy (1995). The six-storey, pounds 49-million Southampton Oceanography Centre dominates the waterfront. Hot on sculpture - Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth on the main campus.

Vital statistics: A large university, it has doubled in size during the Nineties. From 8,300 students in 1991 has grown to 17,600 today. Strong research reputation. Traditionally strong in engineering, but has also hired the country's first professor of European film and media studies, Pam Cook. Many courses have links with the sea.

Added value: Merger with Winchester School of Art has made it bigger in the arts and has cemented European links: Winchester has an outpost in Barcelona. You can study for a Southampton art degree in that lovely Catalan city instead of less lovely Southampton. University of Southampton New College opened last year to promote lifelong learning; headed by guru Bob Fryer.

Easy to get into? No. Nine applications for every place. A-level grades needed for medicine ABB; for engineering and law BBB; for arts, science and social sciences BBC.

Glittering alumni: Olympic athlete Roger Black; supermodels Laura Bailey and Stella Tennant; comedian Jeremy Hardy; actor John Nettles; wildlife presenter Chris Packham; Adrian Newey, technical director for McLaren Formula One team; Dr Astrid Fischel, vice-president of Costa Rica.

Transport links: New Campuslink bus service will connect all campuses and the city centre. Good rail, air and sea links. Motorway OK on a traffic- less day.

Who's the boss? Prof Howard Newby, sociologist and countryside expert, former head of the Economic and Social Research Council and fervent supporter of Derby County.

Teaching: Rated 24 out of 24 in electronics and computer science; 23 for ship science and sound and vibration science; 21 for sociology, aeronautics and astronautics, and civil and environmental engineering; 20 for history of art; 18 for modern languages.

Research: Came 19th out of 101 in the research assessment exercise, with 16 departments rated top grade 5 and electronics, electrical engineering and nutrition receiving tip-top 5*. Received 5 in archaeology, music, chemistry, computer science, engineering, economics, geography, oceanography, law, management and operational research.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: Union hosts high-profile guest DJs (LTJ Bukem, Grooverider, Tony de Vit) and big-name bands (Catatonia, Mansun).

Cheap to live in? Private rents roughly pounds 38 a week. University accommodation costs from pounds 35 (no food) to pounds 75 (with food).

Buzzphrase: You're witching me (you'll get me into trouble).

Next week: School of Slavonic and East European Studies.