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The Independent Online
Age: 21 this year.

Address: two sites near Buckingham town centre, an historic market town named after the Teutonic chieftain Bucca.

Ambience: Safe, compact and on the quiet side. Is situated on two campuses in between ancient Oxford and brand-new Milton Keynes. Buildings range from the 17th-century Tanlaw Mill, where students gather, to the swish new pounds 1bn Anthony de Rothschild building that houses the business school.

Vital statistics: This is a very unusual place. Britain's only private university, it receives no government funding and charges full tuition - pounds 9,744 this year to all undergraduates and pounds 6,000-pounds 10,000 for Masters students. (Gives you some idea of what higher education costs!) Even so, manages to recruit 1,000 students altogether, two-thirds from abroad, notably from Malaysia, Japan, Nigeria, Germany, Hong Kong and the Bahamas. Has four schools of study: business, humanities, law and sciences, and pioneered the two-year degree, which runs over eight terms and equals the same number of weeks as in traditional universities.

Sounds a sweat: It is. Students work hard all summer and are not known for frenetic clubbing.

Easy to get into? Not too tough. Three Cs at A level are required for law, and slightly lower grades for sciences. Mature students can get in on the basis of educational and employment background and personal experience. All UK students have to attend for interview.

Added value: Offers a staff:student ratio of 1:10 and small tutorial groups not seen in many universities today. Cosmopolitan student body and unique multicultural atmosphere - of the well-heeled variety. Active alumni network worldwide. Graduate employability is high. The two-year degree means students get university over more quickly. Bursaries and scholarships for those in need.

Glittering alumni: Geeta Sidhu, the Conservative Party's first female Asian parliamentary candidate; Leo Mills, secretary to the Bermuda cabinet; Marc Gene; various members of the Churchill family.

Transport links: Good. Close to major motorway routes, and within easy reach of mainline railway stations serving London and the Midlands.

Buzz phrase: "Reassuringly expensive" (used by students who know quality when they see it).

Who's the boss? American-born Professor Bob Taylor, 53, who was pro-director of the School of Oriental and African Studies before succeeding Sir Richard Luce last month. His PhD is in government and South-East Asian studies from Cornell. Chancellor of the university is Baroness Thatcher.

Teaching rating: Because it's privately funded, doesn't receive a rating from the Higher Education Funding Council (Hefce).

Research strengths: Again, the university is not assessed by Hefce, so it has no rating in the research assessment exercise. Boasts expertise in the physiology of metabolic diseases (diabetes and obesity).

Financial health: Fine. Covers costs with tuition fees and gifts from benefactors. A drop in UK students has caused a blip in numbers, but overseas recruitment is buoyant.

Night-life: More sedate than most universities. Students use union bar or pubs in town, or visit night-clubs in London, Oxford or Milton Keynes.

Cheap to live in? No. The area is home counties chic, and you will need plenty of funds to compete socially. Accommodation on campus guaranteed for the first year, at pounds 60 a week in term timen

Next week: Cambridge University