Education: A-Z of Higher Education Colleges Dartington College of Arts

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The Independent Online
Age: Pushing 40.

History: An international centre since the Twenties, founded by educational pioneers Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, it was one of the first ventures in rural reconstruction to include the arts. And it has endured - unlike the school which closed in the Eighties after bad publicity. Painters and craftsmen flocked there, including Bernard Leach, the potter, and German artists Rudolf Laban and Lise Ullman. Chekhov was invited to run a theatre studio; Imogen Holst began the music course in 1943. Amadeus Quartet was formed here. Acquired its current name and status in 1961.

Address: Deepest Devon down a sometimes muddy lane, close to the coast, near Totnes.

Ambience: Intensely rural. Gorgeous setting on 344 hectares of Dartington Hall Estate, which comes with medieval Great Hall and courtyard built in 1384 by John Holand, Duke of Exeter, half brother to Richard II. There is also the Barn Theatre, refurbished with lottery money, for which Benjamin Britten wrote The Rape of Lucretia. But some modern buildings and modernist Californian houses, as well as lovely garden and sculptures, including a Henry Moore.

Vital statistics: Very small - 500 students, including postgraduates, one-third over-21 on entry. Male/female ratio 47:53. Degrees are validated by the University of Plymouth. Concentrates on contemporary visual and performance arts, and arts management. Students take interdisciplinary modules, e.g. BA in music and arts management.

Added value: New MA in performance arts practice - music, theatre, visual performances, performance writing and arts management.

Easy to get into? Qualifications matter less than how much flair and commitment you show.

Glittering alumni: Josie Lawrence, actor; Yolande Snaith and Janet Smith, choreographers; Laurie Booth, choreographer and dancer; Jane Chapman, harpsichordist; Lindsay Cooper, saxophonist; Quentin Hayes, opera singer; Mick Jackson, finalist, 1998 Booker Prize; William Kerley, opera director; Deborah Levy, writer.

Transport links: 30 minutes by car off the M5 from Exeter and A38 from Plymouth. Takes 2 hours 45 minutes from London to Totnes by car, then a 10-minute taxi ride. Mountain bikes popular with students living off campus. And walking boots.

Who's the boss? Professor Kevin Thompson, conductor and composer. Was principal of the Birmingham Conservatoire before moving to Dartington.

Teaching: Rated 23 out of 24 across five disciplines. Assessors described teaching as "inspirational" and "charismatic".

Research: Did better than 18 new universities in the research assessment exercise. Postgraduate numbers have tripled in the last three years.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: Better than you might expect in such an out-of-the-way spot. Student bar on campus with live bands, comedy, quiz nights and discos. Dartington Arts provides a year-round programme of concerts, exhibitions and films, and there's the International Summer School of Music. For conventional student social life, try Plymouth or Exeter.

Cheap to live in? Room on campus costs pounds 41 a week (no food). Local rents pounds 40-pounds 50.

Buzzphrase: Up the hill to the Rat and Emu (where students go to drink).

Next week: Edge Hill.