A-Z OF UNIVERSITIES: Keele

Age: 48

How many lives? Two. It began as the University College of North Staffordshire in 1949, and received full chartered status in 1962.

Address: Square mile of parkland, two minutes from Keele services on the M6. Situated between Stoke and Newcastle under Lyme, in the heart of the Staffordshire potteries. Check out the slide show on website at http://www.keele.ac.uk.

Ambience: Green campus, miles away from it all. Mostly modern blocks but one 19th-century building, Keele Hall, lends grace to the Sixties effect. Has retained its communal atmosphere - small, friendly, busy campus with 70 per cent of students and most staff living on site.

Vital statistics: Set up to counteract the narrow focus of English and Welsh higher education, it pioneered the dual honours course whereby students take a principal and a subsidiary subject. Ninety per cent of all students do dual honours, which means that they also study arts and science to degree level. Twenty per cent of students take a foundation year: they spend the first year studying subjects from various faculties, and end up with a four-year degree.

Added value: 38 acres of playing fields, eight tennis courts, six squash courts, two sports halls, a gym and a state-of-the-art fitness centre with 16 cardiovascular machines for jogging, exercise and more. So you have no excuse for being out of shape. Heritage trail and sculpture park are on the way. So is 350-place postgraduate residential centre.

Easy to get into? Not particularly. For social sciences, eg criminology and psychology, BBB or BBC; for sciences, BCC or CCC.

Glittering alumni: Clare Short, who said her foundation year at Keele was "probably the best single part" of her education; Jem Finer, of the Pogues; Phil Soar, chief executive of Nottingham Forest FC; Michael Mansfield QC; Jack Straw, Home Secretary; Alun Michael, Home Office minister; Don Foster, Lib Dem education spokesman; Adelaide Tambo, ANC official.

Transport links: No train or coach station at Keele. So you have to catch trains and coaches at Stoke. Local buses run between campus and surrounding towns every 15 minutes. Good for cars because of M6. Alternatively, try cycling.

Who's the boss? Janet Finch, 51, a sociologist and vegetarian.

Teaching rating: In quality assessments by the higher education funding council, it achieved 19 (out of a maximum of 24) in German, 20 in French and Russian, and 22 in sociology.

Research: Came 50th out of 101 in last year's research assessment exercise. Two departments - American studies and the centre for science and technology in medicine - achieved top grades of 5 and 5*.

Financial health: Suffered heavy government cuts in the Eighties. But fought back by diversifying income stream (into conferences) and now claims to be in the black.

Night-life: Students' union and five restaurants and bars on site, as well as three club nights a week. Two cinemas in Stoke, one in Newcastle. Five theatres locally. Plus numerous clubs around the towns.

Cheap to live in? Cheaper than average. Campus en suite study bedrooms cost pounds 53 a week. On-campus rooms with shared facilities are pounds 30 a week. Private sector pounds 30-35. All university accommodation is self-catering.

Buzz-word: oatcakes (a Staffordshire delicacy).

Next week: Kent

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