Education: A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: This Week: University of Birmingham, Westhill - Education News - Education - The Independent

Education: A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: This Week: University of Birmingham, Westhill

Age: 92

History: Founded in 1907 as a college for the training of non-conformist Sunday school teachers. Land was donated by Quakers - the Cadbury's chocolate people - and a lot of the early teaching was basic literacy. Moved into community and youth work and Froebel education. Later began to train primary school teachers.

Address: Leafy south-west Birmingham, three miles from the city centre.

Ambience: Mix of old and new buildings, from the redbrick arts and crafts edifice to a pounds 5.25m learning resource centre put up in 1997. An eight- storey unsightly accommodation block has been mothballed. All set in 80 acres of garden and playing fields in an almost village atmosphere next to Bournville.

Vital statistics: Small college of higher education with 850 full-time students and 120 PGCE students. Has now diversified out of teacher training. Runs degrees in such courses as creative arts, English and art, childhood studies, race and ethnic studies, and maths, science and psychology. Part of the University of Birmingham since August 1999. Male/female ratio 1:3. One-half mature students.

Added value: Teaches Islamic studies. Muslim parents are happy to send their daughters there. The college is proud of its record in widening access- one quarter of students are from Asian/Afro-Caribbean backgrounds.

Easy to get into? You'll need two A-level passes if you're coming in at 18, but the college operates an open-entry policy.

Glittering alumni: Sue Gormley, headteacher, Ward End School, Birmingham; Terry Martin, headteacher, Tiverton School, Birmingham; teacher Diana Sperry won the Guardian Award for the most creative use of information and communication technology in primary schools.

Transport links: To get into town, you can take the cross-city rail service or a bus up the Bristol Road. Getting to Birmingham is easy by road or train.

Who's the boss? History Professor John Briggs, a collector and historian of Staffordshire pottery.

Teaching: Scored 17 out of 24 in art and design. In Ofsted's primary teacher training inspection was rated good; in secondary RE teacher training was rated good to adequate.

Research: Beat three new universities in the 1996 research assessment exercise. Achieved a 3b in theology (top grade is 5).

Financial health: In the black. Will be better off still as a result of merger with Birmingham University.

Nightlife: The Yard and Bucket bar on campus. Annual summer ball. Local pubs and clubs offer student discounts.

Cheap to live in? Room in hall costs pounds 73 a week including meals. Private accommodation in Selly Oak costs about pounds 40 a week (no food).

Buzzphrase: Drunk as a skunk (what happens to students on Thursdays).

Next week: Westminster College, Oxford

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