A-Z of Universities: Wolverhampton

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Age: Six as a university.

History: Roots go back to the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College, built in 1931 in the grounds of the deanery of St Peter's Collegiate Church. It merged with an art college and became Wolverhampton Poly in 1969, then joined up with teacher training institutions in the Eighties to become a university in 1992.

Address: Five campuses in the

West Midlands urban sprawl - Wolverhampton town centre, Compton, Dudley, Walsall, and Telford in Shropshire.

Ambience: Gritty, businesslike atmosphere. Many students are over 21, studying part-time vocational courses and living locally. So they hurry off home after lectures. Main Wolverhampton campus is the former tech, a piece of massive Thirties civic architecture with shiny floors, pillars, and copper-and-brass railings. Compton Park (business studies) is pleasant and leafy; Dudley (humanities and social sciences) is in a green suburb, good for real ale; Walsall (school of education) is modern and purpose- built; Telford (in an 18th-century mansion) is the newest, serving a county without a university.

Vital statistics: Fifth biggest university, with more than 24,000 students - half of whom come from the region. Emphasis is on equipping students with real employment skills, and giving as much access as possible to higher education.

Added value: It pioneered the first high-street higher education shop, a drop-in information centre for people who may be thinking about going to university. Last academic year, almost 25,000 people visiting Wolverhampton dropped in to the shop, of whom 9,000 had individual consultations. Twenty per cent of them enrolled at the university or went on to preparatory courses at local colleges. The university also offers financial counselling to help students with money problems.

Easy to get into? Yes. For law and psychology, 18 A-level points (three Cs). For business studies, 16 points (two Cs and a D); for health services, 12 points (two Cs).

Glittering alumni: Trevor Beattie, advertising guru; Sir Terence Beckett, ex-chairman of the CBI; Michael Foster, anti-fox-hunting MP; Mark O'Shea, television herpetologist (snake-hunter); Cornelia Parker, artist shortlisted for the Turner Prize; and Vernie Bennett, who dropped out of law to join Eternal, the pop group.

Transport links: Free shuttle buses between campuses. Wolverhampton good for trains and coaches. Dudley not so good.

Who's the boss? Physicist John Brooks, just arrived from Sheffield Hallam, where he was assistant principal, and where he turned round the physics department.

Teaching: 17 out of 24 for German, 19 for drama, dance and cinematics and French; 20 for Spanish, engineering, sociology and built environment; 21 for linguistics and American studies; 22 for Russian.

Research: Came 99 out of 101 in the research assessment exercise.

Financial health: In the black.

Night life: Five bars on student union sites; live music for clubbers.

Cheap to live in? Self-catering university accommodation from pounds 38.50 a week; between pounds 30 and pounds 45 for private rooms off-campus.

Buzz-sentence: See you on the Marble (the grand rendezvous point at the entrance to the main campus).

Next week: York.

Lucy Hodges