A-Z OF UNIVERSITIES; Goldsmiths

Age: 106

Address: New Cross, Lewisham, south-east London.

Ambience: Lively place in one of the grittiest and grottiest parts of London. Some lovely buildings, including the ivy-clad main edifice erected in 1843 as the Royal Naval School and later home to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths Technical and Recreative (sic) Institute, and the Victorian Deptford Baths building which houses the new research and development precinct. But some very unlovely 1960s buildings too. Relief from the urban wasteland in nearby Blackheath and Greenwich Park.

Vital statistics: Part of London University, Goldsmiths has traditionally excelled in art and teacher-training. Today it's known for good drama, music, visual art, communications and sociology and for its cosmopolitan and bohemian student population. Around one-half of undergraduates are aged 21 or over on entry; almost two-thirds are women; one-quarter study creative arts; almost one-quarter are non-white.

Added value: Library, IT and language resources are being brought together in a striking new state-of-the art building. Big refurbishment and redevelopment programme for halls of residence. All first years are guaranteed places in hall. All overseas students guaranteed places for duration of their degrees. Flourishing community education programme for local residents.

Easy to get into? Variable. A-level requirements are BBB (media and communications), BBC (English and music), BBC-BCC (psychology), CCC (history), CC (education). Also accepted are access courses, GNVQs and BTECs, but grades are not the most important selection tool.

Glittering alumni: the Goldsmiths School of contemporary artists, including Grenville Davey, Antony Gormley, Lucien Freud, Bridget Riley and enfant terrible Damien Hirst; designer Mary Quant, Alex James of the pop group Blur, John Cale of The Velvet Underground and John Illsley of Dire Straits, Julian Clary; politicians Derek Hatton, Tessa Jowell and Lord Merlyn Rees; and Appeal Court judge Lord Slynn.

Transport links: Close to central London - 12 minutes by overground train.

Who's the boss? Professor Kenneth Gregory, a geographer with a passion for higher education quality assessment.

Teaching rating: Music rating excellent. Sociology achieved 21 out of a maximum of 24 points. Anthropology and historical and cultural studies get satisfactory ratings.

Research: Jumped up the league table in last December's research assessment exercise (RAE). Came 27th out of 101, with design studies and visual arts awarded the prized 5*, indicating international excellence. Anthropology, music and sociology received grade 5.

Financial health: Has seen a turnaround because of its stellar performance in the RAE. As a result its grant from the Higher Education Funding Council has been increased by 7.3 per cent. Now has a substantial innovation fund for new initiatives and an administrator for fundraising.

Nightlife: Students Union runs classic cheesy nights, a "comfy carpeted slob zone" showing Sky movies, house nights in conjunction with the Ministry of Sound, and jazz, funk and games nights.

Cheap to live in? Has some cheaper rents than other halls of residence in London. You pay pounds 46-pounds 56 for university accommodation without food and around pounds 50 for private rented sector.

Buzz-sentence: See you in the bar.

Next week: Greenwich University

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