What is it? The UK's premier art and design school - all the capital's art and design colleges collected together and given an oddly clinical name.
Incarnations: Who knows? Was formed in 1986 from a marriage of seven colleges: Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, Central School of Art and Design, Chelsea School of Art, College for Distributive Trades, London College of Fashion, London College of Printing and St Martin's School of Art.
Address: On 21 sites all over London from Sloane Square through Oxford Street and Bloomsbury to Southwark.
Where's its heart? Doesn't have one, unless you count Davies Street HQ.
Ambience: Chelsea site off King's Road is full of cool, art-student types; Fashion College in Oxford Street also very hip, though more worldly; ditto Central St Martin's; London College of Printing has the misfortune to be housed at Elephant and Castle, but its multi-media graphic boffins give the area a certain high-tech chic; Camberwell students, studying conservation, ceramics and metalwork, are more serious and studious.
Vital statistics: It's the "epicentre of London style", according to Newsweek, the place to spot serious body-piercing and rainbow hairdos. It's also probably the largest art and design school in the world. Comprises five separate institutions - all with good reputations, and attracting students from all over the globe. Awards its own degrees, but students apply to individual colleges.
Added value: The fact that it's in London. Hey, this is where it's at these days. Students get to talk to visiting lecturers who are glitzy practitioners in their fields.
Easy to get into? Reasonably so, as long as you're artistic. Recruitment via one-year foundation courses or portfolio work or with two A-level passes and three GCSE passes or BTech National or advanced GNVQ.
Glittering alumni: John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Katharine Hamnett, Nicole Farhi, Stella McCartney, Bruce Oldfield, Rifat Ozbek, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood (fashion designers); Henry Moore (sculptor); Terence Conran (entrepreneur of style); Alexei Sayle (comedian); Lionel Bart (composer); Dirk Bogarde (actor and writer); Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp); Mike Leigh (film director).
Transport links: For inner London sites, the Tube is on the doorstep. For Camberwell, take the No 12 bus from the Elephant and Castle.
Who's the boss? Seriously unstylish but canny Scot Sir William Stubbs, the ultimate education bureaucrat, responsible for establishing the Institute in the first place. After surviving Frances Morrell's regime at the Inner London Education Authority, he went on to run the further education funding council. Was a member of the Dearing committee, and is now chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
Teaching rating: Awarded 20 out of a maximum of 24 in communication and media studies, and 19 in history of art.
Research: Achieved a 3a (top grade is 5) in art and design in the research assessment exercise.
Financial health: In the black.
Night-life: There are bars at the five colleges: the Boiler Room at the London College of Printing; the Ophelia Suite at London College of Fashion; 99 Screwz at Camberwell, a bar above the Cochrane Theatre at Central St Martin's; and another in Manresa Road, Chelsea.
Buzz-phrase: No way, no way (after new pop song)
Next week: Loughborough.
By Lucy Hodges
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- British Fashion
- Kensington And Chelsea
- Oxford Street (London)
- University Of The Arts London