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Age: 5

How many lives? Difficult to say, because its provenance is so complicated. Roots date back to 1851 and the setting up of Lichfield Diocesan Institute for the Training of School Mistresses. A second branch grew from Derby School of Art and a third from Derby School of Sciences. Before it became a university in 1992 it was the Derbyshire College of Higher Education.

So, it wasn't a poly then? No sirree. It was the only college of higher education to gain university status at the same time as the polys.

Address: Main site on a hill less than 10 minutes from city centre.

Ambience: The campus is scattered on sites around Derby, a small city with a friendly atmosphere and stunning wrought-iron work. The main site has magnificent views of the countryside. University is having a visible impact: the west end of the city is becoming known as the university district.

Vital statistics: Has grown astronomically since becoming a university. Its full-time student numbers have grown six times in the Nineties and the part-time population has almost doubled. Total student numbers are 12,500. Since it became a university, departments such as maths, psychology, computing, law, health, sociology and construction have flourished from next to nothing. Big growth, too, in humanities and performing arts. Traditional strengths lie in part-time engineering, environmental and earth sciences, business and management, art and design, and education.

Added value: Claims to be the university which adds most value at least cost, ie a pound spent in Derby will do more than a pound spent almost anywhere else. Has pioneered completely electronic enrolment. A new, state- of-the-art learning centre opens in September with 1,200 study spaces (desks to you and me) and a high-speed electronic network. This will link to campuses and residences and will mean you'll be able to dial in from your room in the middle of the night.

Easy to get into? Yes. Is committed to giving access to the motivated, particularly mature students and women. Law and psychology require three Cs or two Bs at A-level, music technology two Cs, art and design post- A-level, foundation portfolio.

Glittering alumni: the late Russell Harty; John Blakemore, the photographer/lecturer who won the Fox Talbot prize; Joyti Mishra, whose release, "White Town", went from nowhere to top of the hit parade; and Devon Malcolm, who bowled for Derbyshire and England.

Transport links: 10 minutes from the M1 and on the main line north from St Pancras by train. East Midlands airport nearby. Four specially designed bus routes link campuses, university residences, private residential areas, bus station, railway station and city centre.

Who's the boss? Professor Roger Waterhouse, wood-turner and expert on existential phenomenology.

Teaching rating: Received an unsatisfactory rating in law and computer studies in the Higher Education Funding Council's first assessments. But both departments were given a clean bill of health a year later. Gained an "excellent" in geography and a roughly equivalent score in American studies.

Research: Came 105th out of 112 in the most recent research assessment exercise, beating seven former polys. University claims that its research earnings have risen from pounds 50,000 to pounds 1.3m this decade. The number of research students has shot up from around a dozen to more than 200.

Financial health: Amazingly, in the black, despite the claim that it is one of the two poorest-funded universities in the country.

Night-life: Dynamic students' union, with two publicly licensed night- clubs, nine bars.

Cheap to live in? So-so. University accommodation has been going up. Rates run from pounds 35 to pounds 50 a week. Cheap accommodation in Normanton area.

Buzz-phrase: It's all gone a bit Pete Tong (It's all gone wrong).

Next week: Dundee