Minor British Institutions: The Royal College of Art

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In everything that could be described as art, from sculpture to fashion and vehicle design, the Royal College of Art has someone to teach it and something to say about it.

It describes itself as "the world's most influential postgraduate art and design school", which may be a little immodest, but it has an impressive list of alumni, including James Dyson, Tracey Emin, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney.

It's an informal, smelly sort of place, more workshop than studio, smelling of paint, petrochemicals and glass fibre. This, despite its somewhat plain premises, just by the Albert Hall in London which put its architecture to shame.

The late prince consort would approve of its vocational bias, and the success many of it graduates enjoy in their chosen fields (and the benefits they confer upon our "knowledge economy").

It can trace it origins back to 1837, as the Government School of Design; in 1967, a royal charter granted it independent status.