A-Z of Universities: University of Westminster

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The Independent Online
Age: 160.

That's old for a new university: Yep. The university is the former Polytechnic of Central London, which, in an earlier incarnation, was the first ever polytechnic - the Regent Street Poly. Initially founded in 1838 to teach the Victorians science and engineering, it was taken over in 1882 by the philanthropist Quintin Hogg, the grandfather of today's Quintin. Within a year, his Polytechnic Young Men's Christian Institute had 5,000 students.

Address: Regent Street, near Oxford Circus, between Top Shop and Broadcasting House, is the HQ. There are three other campuses: two also in central London - in Marylebone Road opposite Madame Tussauds, and in New Cavendish Street; and a third in West London, at Harrow.

Ambience: The three central London campuses are close together but have little to do with one another. Regent Street has been rebuilt twice since 1838, and has a listed marble foyer; Marylebone is a concrete monolith that has been improved with white paint; New Cavendish Street houses science and engineering. Suburban Harrow, however, is swish and ultra-modern and boasts hi-tech facilities for communications, design and media, management and computer science.

Vital statistics: A top-rated former poly with a reputation for research, it was the only new university to get a 5 - the top rating - in the first research assessment exercise, for media and communications, the jewel in its crown. It got another top grade in the 1996 RAE. Half of full-time students are from ethnic minorities; many mature students. Around half of students are part-timers; a quarter are postgraduates, and professionals taking vocational qualifications.

Added value: Claims to teach the widest range of languages of any university in the UK. Languages-for-all programme offers courses to all undergraduates. Has recently acquired the Policy Studies Institute.

Easy to get into? For most courses, you need two Cs at A-level. But for popular subjects such as media studies - more than 1,600 applicants for 60 places - you need to show more evidence of ability.

Glittering alumni: Michael Jackson, chief executive of Channel 4; the Rt Hon Baroness Chalker, former Tory overseas development minister; David Emmanuel, who, with his wife, designed Diana, Princess of Wales's wedding dress; Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham, owners of Pret a Manger.

Who's the boss? Physicist Geoffrey Copland, chair of the Coalition of Modern Universities and a follower of cricket who practised the rare art of bowling "Chinamen" in his playing days.

Teaching: Rated 18 out of a maximum of 24 for Russian, Iberian languages and sociology; 19 for Italian; 20 for German and linguistics; 21 for electronic engineering; 22 for building and Arabic; 23 for communication and media, Chinese and French.

Research: Came 61 out of 101 in the RAE. Achieved 5 in communication and media studies and 4 in Italian and in art and design.

Financial health: In the black after a couple of years in the red.

Night-life: New bar, the Dragon, part of the students union in Wells Street, plus the Undercroft bar and Area 51 club at Harrow. Otherwise plenty of clubs in central London.

Cheap to live in? University accommodation costs pounds 59-pounds 70 a week. Private rents average around pounds 65 a week.

Buzz-phrase: One-pot screamer (someone who can't hold their drink very well).

Next week: University of Wolverhampton.