Education: A-Z OF UNIVERSITIES: Bristol

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The Independent Online
How many lives? Two. Emerged from the womb as University College Bristol. Received a royal charter from Edward VII in 1909.

Address: Classy Georgian and Victorian Clifton in the centre of town.

Ambience: Beautiful historic city, plus countryside on the doorstep across Brunel's famous suspension bridge. Clifton and Redland still student areas (just) but steep rents push students further afield. The university sprawls across Georgian squares and square grey blocks. For most local residents it is epitomised by the Wills Memorial Building with its great Gothic tower dominating the skyline.

Vital statistics: Would probably figure in any Ivy League of British universities. Attracts classy students, many from grammar and independent schools who come from well-heeled homes and who are called "Sloanes" on campus and sport mobile phones. But beware of stereotypes. The university is ultimately cosmopolitan and takes all sorts, if they make the grade. Most departments have excellent facilities and reputations. This is quintessentially a research-based university.

Easy to get into? No. Disadvantaged students are admitted on lower A- level scores than the Sloanes. The average A-level entrance scores are roughly three Bs for arts and science subjects.

Added value: Good place to be a student. Large and relatively wealthy students' union means loads of money is spent on societies and entertainment. In fact, there's a weird and wonderful collection of societies including the Mr Men Appreciation Society, the Chocolate Society and the Fish Society. Good sports facilities.

Glittering alumni: Jemima Goldsmith (daughter of Jimmy, wife of Imran Khan, mother of Sulaiman); Deborah Moggach (novelist); Sue Lawley (Desert Island Discs); Adrian Noble (RSC director); Tim Piggott-Smith (actor); Paul Boateng (Labour MP); Paul Dirac (Nobel prizewinner); and three other Nobel prizewinners (Bethe, Delbruck, Herzberg) who spent part of their careers at Bristol.

Transport links: Ace road and rail links. Easy access for hitching to London. Handy for the M4, the M5 and the second Severn crossing and 20 minutes from Bristol Lulsgate airport.

Buzz phrase: "How bist, my luvvarr?" (How are you, my dear chap?); has to be asked with a West Country accent.

Who's the boss? Sir John Kingman FRS, a statistician and vice-chancellor of the old school. Reputed to have been a friend of Mrs T.

Teaching rating: Good, for a university which is so heavily into research. No department has scored less than 20 out of 24 in the higher education funding council's teaching ratings. Sociology was rated 21, Russian 20, Hispanic studies 22, French 20, and so on.

Research strengths: Performed much better in the latest research assessment exercise than it did four years ago. Jumped from 25th position to 14th [check].

Financial health: Claims to have a strong balance sheet, with adequate reserves and low gearing by national university standards. Its development campaign has brought in pounds 40m of precious dosh.

Nightlife: Students' union is the second-largest live venue for bands in the city. Smiles bitter is popular local brew. In fact, good city for real ale. Good too for cinemas and theatre (Bristol Old Vic, Welsh National Opera). Union bar - the Epi (short for Epicurean) - cheap and popular.

Cheap to live in? No, not far off London prices. Expect to pay pounds 40 to pounds 60 a week for a flat within walking distance of the university.

Next week: Brunel University

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