Abbey Tutorial Colleges

History: The first Abbey Tutorial College opened in London 21 years ago, in 1985.

Address: There are four colleges in the Abbey group: in Central London, Cambridge, Birmingham and Manchester.

Raison d’etre: Abbey Tutorial Colleges are specialist sixth-form colleges for students who want to take or re-take A-levels and GCSEs. The London and Cambridge sites specialise in the Science A-levels (Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Maths) on which they have built their reputation, and on economics-based subjects, focusing on preparing their students for the professions. Birmingham and Manchester offer A-Levels and GCSEs in a wider range of subjects, from Media Studies to English Literature. Course lengths vary from short Easter revision courses to full, two year A-Levels, depending on the needs of the student.

Ambience: Birmingham and Manchester are major student cities, making them great places for young people. Abbey College in London recently moved to new premises in frighteningly up-market Belgravia. The Cambridge college is right in the heart of the university district, and one assumes that Cambridge - of all places - would also be conducive to hard work, which might just be what you're there for?

Vital statistics: There are between 700 and 800 students across all four colleges. London's new buildings will be able to accommodate up to 200 pupils, while Cambridge and Manchester currently have just over 200, and Birmingham just under 200.

Added value: Students retaking at A-levels at Abbey Colleges in 2005 gained 55 per cent Grade As, more than double the national average. Abbey College Cambridge is a open centre for the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and offers special support to those wishing to apply to Oxbridge.

Glittering alumni: There hasn't really been time for that yet, but Abbey say that most of their students join top twenty universities to pursue their degrees, often in scientific specialisms such as medicine or dentistry.

Transport links: All the colleges are close to major mainline train stations and airports.

Who's the boss? The college principals are Mark Love at London, Julian Davies at Cambridge, Cherie Rowe at Birmingham and Jenny Thomas at Manchester.

Teaching: Abbey's class sizes are small, averaging around six or seven, with a maximum of ten. Each student is also assigned a personal tutor, with whom they meet at least once a week, establishing a good working and pastoral rapport with the teaching staff.

Any accommodation? There is some accommodation provided, at extra cost, in London and Cambridge. Those students from outside the area, or from overseas, are placed with local host families in their own private study-bedrooms, generally a pair or small groups in a house. Birmingham and Manchester cater almost exclusively to local students.

More info?; Abbey London: 0207 824 7300, Cambridge: 01223 578280, Manchester: 0161 817 2700 Birmingham: 0121 236 7474