Education: A-Z of Universities - University of the West of England

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Age: 403, if you follow its roots back to 1595; six, if you date it from university status.

Incarnations: Began life as Merchant Venturer's Navigation School, whose successor four centuries, later merged with an art college to form Bristol Poly. The 1990s saw mergers with two colleges of health before it became a university.

Address: Five campuses in and around Bristol.

Ambience: Main campus at Frenchay, five miles north of city centre, is purpose-built and functional and contains the HQ of HEFCE, the quango which funds higher education in England. Flowers and greenery make it easier on the eye. (Head gardener, John Carmack, was awarded an MBE last year). Glenside, a former Victorian mental hospital, houses health and social care. St Matthias is a Gothic-style listed building with a sunken lawn. Art, media and design is in a rectangular, glass structure at Bower Ashton - lots of light and space; and teacher training is at Redland, soon to be rebuilt on main campus.

Vital Statistics: Very large - 23,000 students - it's one of the most rated of the new universities and is said to have a relatively high proportion of students coming from private schools. Close links with business and industry. Sees itself as the engine for economic recovery in the South West. Some complain that the main campus is isolated, but Bristol is great - attractive, funky and a bit brown-ricey.

Added value: Houses the world's first Centre for Appearance and Disfigurement Research, established with the support of the charity, Changing Faces. And its engineering faculty is working on the invention of an environmentally friendly slug-removing robot.

Easy to get into? For physiotherapy, law and media, you need BBC at A level; for building and biological sciences, CCD. But, as a new university, it accepts a wide range of other qualifications - EDEXCEL (BTEC) and GNVQs.

Glittering alumni: Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits; James Breese, film director; Dawn Primarolo, Labour MP and Financial Secretary to the Treasury; Jack Russell, Glos CC and England cricketer; Geoff Twentyman, Bristol Rovers; Steve Scott, ex-ITN/now Channel 5 Sports; Kyran Bracken, Simon Shaw, Victor Ubogu, Stephen Ojomoh, England rugby players.

Transport links: London 75 minutes by train. Intercity station minutes away from main campus. Parking is a headache. Use the bus.

Who's the boss? Alfred Morris, one-time adviser to Chris Price when he chaired the Education select committee. Keen sailor and windsurfer who challenged student union president to a skateboard race and lost.

Teaching: Rated 21 out of maximum of 24 in modern languages, building and electronic engineering; 22 in communication and media studies, and land and property management; 23 in sociology with social policy and administration, and town and country planning and landscape.

Research: Came 71 out of 101 in the research assessment exercise.

Financial health: solvent.

Nightlife: Bristol has been put on the map musically by acts such as Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky. Hot scene in upfront techno, garage and house.

Cheap to live in? Room in self-catering hall costs pounds 42-47.50 a week; room in private sector pounds 35-50 a week.

Buzzphrase: Ol-roight moi luvver (all right my lover).

Next week: University of Westminster

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