A-Z of Higher Education Colleges; This Week: Writtle College, Chelmsford

Age: 106

History: Founded in 1893 by Essex County Council to provide technical instruction for agriculture and other industry in the county. At that stage it consisted of just two lecturers teaching short courses. In 1912 it became the East Anglian Institute of Agriculture.

Address: Writtle College, Lordship Lane, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3RR. (01245-424200) postmaster@writtle.ac.uk

Ambience: Rural campus on a 220-hectare estate in a village two miles from Chelmsford. Original 1939 building is purpose-built redbrick. Huge amount of building during the Nineties, including new science block, horticulture building and halls of residence. There's also a new management centre built in 1998 and a postgraduate centre. The estate includes three farms and gardens, used by agriculture and horticulture students. Plus an arboretum with more than 1,000 trees, as well as grounds with 70,000 bulbs. Main teaching block is next door to halls, so you need get out of bed only five minutes before lectures. Campus tends to be empty at weekends.

Vital statistics: A smallish college of higher education with 2,500 students. No longer called an agricultural college because it has branched out. Today it offers further and higher education qualifications in subjects such as engineering, conservation, equine studies, landscape design, leisure and business management as well as the traditional subjects of agriculture and horticulture.

All degrees are validated by the University of Essex. The male to female ratio is 50:50. Lots of overseas students - 200 from more than 40 countries - from as far away as Iran, Brunei, South Africa, Japan, Bangladesh. Many courses offer a sandwich year.

Added value: Facilities include sports hall, squash courts, playing fields. Writtle is the rugby champions of the South East universities league. And it plays soccer, cricket, hockey, netball and Gaelic football as well.

Easy to get into? You need 10 to 14 points at A-level for a degree (equivalent to CD to BC).

Glittering alumni: Lord Carter, the chief whip in the House of Lords; the late Geoff Hamilton, the gardening teleevangelist; Peter Seabrook, another famous gardener; MP Jim Pace; Lord Ramsey; Lord Petre.

Transport links: Students can hop on a minibus for pounds 1.50 to get to Chelmsford. Train from there to central London takes 35 minutes. Or hitch a lift to Stansted Airport (40 minutes away). Many have cars.

Who's the boss? Mike Alder, who is a professor of rural management, and he likes skiing, golf and cricket.

Teaching: Scored 19 out of 24 for agriculture, forestry and agricultural sciences.

Research: Outperformed five new universities in the 1996 research assessment exercise. Awarded a two (top grade is five) in agriculture.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: Student union runs two balls a year and regular live music, discos and theme nights. Bright lights in Chelmsford.

Cheap to live in? It costs pounds 65-pounds 75 to live on campus (including food). Private rents are from pounds 35 for a room in Chelmsford, pounds 50 for a room in Writtle.

Buzz-sentence: You can go "sawing after drinking tractor diesel" (enjoy good hanky-panky after getting drunk on a lethal Writtle concoction).

This is the last in our popular series. A compilation of all the entries will be published next year. Also look out for the A-Z of Subjects appearing in the new year. Use it to help choose the right higher education subject to study and where to go

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