A-Z of Universities: University College London

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The Independent Online
Age: 172

History: Founded by the English philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham (you can see his clothed skeleton inside) to give an education to all regardless of race, religion or gender. This was revolutionary in 1826. It was the first university in London, the first university to introduce the systematic teaching of medicine and law and the first to introduce practicals in science teaching.

Address: Gower Street, in the heart of London's university land.

Ambience: Main building is divine, designed in neo-Grecian style by William Wilkins who also built the National Gallery. Library dome behind. Stone cloisters surround a grass lawn. Other buildings, made of brick, are distinctly humdrum. Has a great location - within walking distance of the British Museum, the British Library, University of London Union and the West End.

Vital statistics: UCL, as it's called, is London University's biggest college, a university within a university, with a hotshot medical school. Impressive academic reputation across all subjects, which has it jostling for one of the top five positions with Oxford and Cambridge in most rankings.

Added value: Continues to innovate. The new school of public policy, covering health, social care, trade and international relations, industry, transport etc, means it's a real rival to the LSE in that area.

Easy to get into? No. For English you need ABB at A-level; for law AAB to ABB; for physiology BBC.

Glittering alumni: Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; Jonathan Dimbleby, broadcaster; Bel Mooney, his wife, another broadcaster; Brett Anderson, of the pop group Suede; Justine Frischmann, of the pop group Elastica (Anderson's one-time girlfriend); Francis Crick, Nobel prizewinner and co-discoverer of DNA; David Gower, cricketer; Rabbi Lionel Blue; Raymond Briggs, writer/illustrator; Hugh Gaitskell, former Labour leader; Mahatma Gandhi; Derek Jarman, film director; Stanley Spencer, artist; Marie Stopes, birth control pioneer.

Transport links: 100m from Euston Station.

Who's the boss? Sir Derek Roberts, former captain of industry, who is leaving next year to be succeeded by Chris Llewellyn Smith, director- general of Cern (European laboratory for particle physics).

Teaching: Rated 24 out of 24 for history of art, architecture and design; 23 for German and Scandinavian; 22 for Dutch, linguistics and electrical and electronic engineering; 21 for French; 20 for Italian and chemical engineering; 19 for Iberian languages.

Research: Came fifth out of 101 in the 1996 research assessment exercise. Achieved tip-top 5* in anatomy, pharmacology, electrical and electronic engineering, geography, economics, English, French, Italian, classics, history and art and design. Achieved top grade 5 in community-based clinical medicine, biochemistry, psychology, biological sciences, physics, pure maths, applied maths, computer science, chemical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, built environment, law, anthropology, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, linguistics, archaeology, history of art, architecture and design.

Financial health: In the black.

Night-life: Seven bars around the college. Two films a week at the Bloomsbury Theatre, which also hosts UCL productions.

Cheap to live in: No. This is London. pounds 42.98 a week in a self-catering hall of residence. You probably pay more if you share a house.

Buzz question: Are you going to cocktails? (

Next week: University of Ulster.