A-Z OF UNIVERSITIES: NEWCASTLE

Age: 164.

Address: 45-acre campus on northern edge of Newcastle, which you should pronounce to rhyme with "hassle".

Ambience: Classic redbrick campus. Victorian buildings arranged in blocks and situated around paved squares are attractive; Sixties concrete additions less so. Friendly, lively campus in this party city. Newcastle famously came eighth in a poll of the world's most hopping cities - just behind Rio and New Orleans. Good for shopping, too. The old quayside has been redeveloped with chic hotels and bars, and there is an emerging cafe society. No kidding.

Vital statistics: A university increasingly sought-after by the cognoscenti because of its night life, low prices and academic reputation. For example, 35 Old Etonians signed up in 1996 (more than went to either London, Bristol or Cambridge). Other classes welcome, too. Student numbers have increased from just under 8,000 in 1985 to 13,255 today.

Added value: Boasts of being extremely wired up. There are 1,000 PC workstations in "cluster rooms" around the campus and halls of residence. Its Robinson library won a Charter Mark in 1995. Big for sport, in particular rugby (it won the Busa Northern Premier League and plays Brunel in the English final), athletics, rowing and golf. Only British university with its own golf course. And the only one to have a tribal chief on its staff: John Knapton, professor of structural engineering, who was recently made chief of a Ghanaian village.

Easy to get into? Civil engineering, BCC at A-level; English, ABC; law, ABB; agriculture, CCD.

Glittering alumni: Kate Adie, BBC TV reporter; Rowan Atkinson, comedian and writer; Bruce Babbitt, US Interior Secretary; L Neville Chamberlain, former chief executive of British Nuclear Fuels; Alexander Downer, Australian foreign minister; Bryan Ferry, singer; Donald Liao Poon-huai , director of the Hong Kong stock exchange; Robert Malpas, chairman and chief executive of Cookson Group; Dianne Nelmes, director of programmes, Granada satellite TV; Alastair Papps, director of the Prison Service; Miriam Stoppard, writer and broadcaster; Sir George M Waller, Lord Justice of Appeal; and Stephen Hepburn and Joyce Quin, Labour MPs.

Transport links: The train station is 20 minutes' walk from the city centre. It takes two hours and 40 minutes to reach London by train, or one hour and 30 minutes to reach Edinburgh. Coach companies offer cheaper services. The Underground system is one of the best in the world.

Who's the boss? James Wright, a Classicist and semi-retired hill-climber.

Teaching rating: Twenty-two out of a maximum of 24 for linguistics and modern languages; 21 for chemical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering and town and country planning; 20 for civil engineering.

Research: Came 39th out of 101 in the research assessment exercise. Tip- top 5* or 5 ratings in civil engineering, marine technology, physiological sciences, agriculture, earth sciences, computing science, geography, economics and education.

Financial health: Was in the red in 1995 to the tune of pounds 2.6m, according to Noble's Higher Education Financial Yearbook, but recorded a profit the following year.

Night-life: Big music scene in the city. Loads of cinemas, plus an orchestra, five theatres (two on campus), as well as clubs and the new Arena venue, which houses the biggest bands. At least four balls a year on campus and a five-day freshers' binge. Bassment Club in the union building holds 1,850 and attracts big names.

Cheap to live in? Yes. Weekly rate for university accommodation from pounds 55.77 including meals or from pounds 21 without food.

Buzz-sentence: Am gannin' doon the toon (I'm going shopping in the city centre).

Next week: University of North London.

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