Education: A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: Newman College

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The Independent Online
Age: 31

History: Founded as a Catholic teacher-training college in 1968 and named after the great cardinal John Henry Newman, poet, writer and leader of the Oxford Movement. In the past five years it has diversified and now offers a full range of degree subjects.

Address: South-west edge of Birmingham in Bartley Green.

Ambience: On one side you get views of the big city; on the other, the Green Belt. Buildings are modern, redbrick and functional, but it's not as bad as it sounds. Campus is arranged around a series of inner quadrangles, containing lawns, plants, flowers and trees. There's an octagonal chapel at the centre.

Vital statistics: Small and perfectly formed. Only 1,100 full-time and 400 part-time students. Which means staff and students know each other by their first names. Seventy per cent of students are women. Sixty-eight per cent are on teacher-training courses. Despite Catholic orientation, you don't have to be Catholic to work and study here - though the principal and vice-principal are RC. Students come from all over the UK, Ireland and the world. Degrees are validated by Coventry. The college would like its own degree-awarding powers.

Added value: Great community feeling born of being small. Hot on sport, notably football and athletics. Sailing club across the road means you can hop on a boat on the Bartley Green reservoir.

Easy to get into? You need to have two A-level passes for undergraduate degrees. For teacher training, you need a minimum of three GCSEs at grade C, including English, maths and science. Plus two A-levels at grade C minimum.

Glittering alumni: Paul Walmsley, head of the Birmingham Catholic Education Partnership, an umbrella group for Catholic schools in the diocese.

Visitors: Include Cardinal Basil Hume, who is always nipping in to celebrate Mass, and Mother Teresa used to pop in when she was visiting the UK.

Transport links: Local buses run into the centre of Birmingham every 10 minutes. To go further afield, take the train or a coach.

Who's the boss? Electrical engineer Professor Brian Ray, who researches on electronic colour displays and whose interests include sport (cricket, hockey and rugby) and wine.

Teaching: In secondary teacher training, Ofsted rated it good to adequate in religious education and English. In Ofsted's primary sweep it was rated good to sound. Degree courses have not been assessed yet by the Quality Assurance Agency because they are so new.

Research: Highest score in 1996 research assessment exercise was 3a (top grade is 5) in metallurgy and materials. Research interests cover rare and unique mistletoes in Britain and the Gambia.

Financial health: Made a surplus of pounds 15,000 last year.

Nightlife: Students' union organises discos and other ents in students' union bar named, appropriately, Hangovers. Otherwise, good club scene in Birmingham.

Cheap to live in: Room in hall with food is pounds 60 a week; local rents range from pounds 40-80.

Buzz-phrase: John Henry (what Catholics say instead of Gordon Bennett).

Next week: University College, Northampton

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