Heriot Watt

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Age: 31 as a university.

How many lives? Four. Began as the Edinburgh School of Arts in 1821 for "industrious tradesmen"; became the Watt Institute and the Edinburgh School of Arts in 1852; then Heriot-Watt College; and in 1966 a university when the site moved to Riccarton.

Address: Riccarton campus is six miles from Edinburgh centre.

Ambience: Strikingly modern, though not the most aesthetically pleasing. Low-rise, uniform brown, beige and sand colour. Built in Seventies and Eighties. New buildings continue to rise. Big bonus is rural setting and the ancient trees, the lake and the swans, as well as the city of Edinburgh. The library is where the Allied Forces planned the liberation of Norway.

Vital statistics: Renowned as a technological - even hi-tech - institution. Courses are predominantly science and engineering; highly thought of business courses, economics, accountancy and finance and business organisation; highly rated interpreting and translating course. Unusual courses include actuarial mathematics, brewing and distilling, marine biology.

Added value: Strong links with business and industry and flexible, modular courses tailored to commercial needs, especially in physics, electrical engineering and chemical engineering. Out of 1,700 students on campus, 400 get Internet connection in their rooms.

Easy to get into? So-so. For civil and offshore engineering requirements are an A and three Bs in Highers or three Gs at A-level; for mechanical and chemical engineering, three Bs in Highers or a C and two Ds at A-level; for interpreting and translating languages, two As and two Bs or two Bs and a C at A-level; for actuarial maths and statistics, two As and two Bs at Highers or two Bs and a C at A-level.

Glittering alumni: Irvine Welsh, who wrote the screenplay for Trainspotting in the university library while studying for an MBA; three Labour MPs, Martin O'Neill, Norman Godman and Henry McLeish; one Lib Dem MP, Archy Kirkwood; George Bennett, vice-president of Motorola; Duncan Hodge, Scottish rugby player.

Who's the boss? Prof John Archer, formerly deputy rector of Imperial College, London.

Teaching rating: Average of highly satisfactory under the Scottish higher education funding council system.

Research: 35th out of 101 in the research assessment exercise, tied with Aston. Received tip-top 5* in petroleum engineering and top grade 5 in built environment and applied mathematics.

Financial health: Claims to be robust with reserves good and borrowing low. Prudent Gordon would approve.

Night-life: Good if you live on campus. Centres around a selection of bars and Dr Connery's, a disco named after Sean Connery. Plus the bright lights of Edinburgh.

Cheap to live in? Campus accommodation ranges from pounds 68 a week with food to pounds 32 for a shared room without food. Private rental ranges from pounds 40 to 60 a week before bills.

Buzz-word: Casuals (young men in sports gear who get into fights)

Next week: Hertfordshire