History: Stretches all the way back to 1885. Colchester is Britain's oldest recorded town – documented since it was the Celtic stronghold of Camulodunum. Today's town centre lies mainly within the ancient Roman walls.

Address: Consists of three colleges across eight different campuses. The main site is in Sheepen Road and is a short walk from the centre of Colchester.About ten miles down the road is The College at Braintree, where there are two sites - the Church Lane Campus and the Cooper Drive Campus. The College also offers a number of courses at its two campuses in the coastal town of Clacton-on-Sea, as part of The College at Clacton.

Ambience: Colchester offers a blend of ancient and modern with its castle and museums alongside a bustling town centre. Clacton is a seaside town with a pier, amusements and a reasonable social scene. One of the campuses is just off the sea-front and only five minutes' walk from the town centre. Braintree, situated in the rolling countryside of north Essex, was once home to early Roman and Saxon settlements.

Who's the boss? Danny Clough has been principal and chief executive since November 2001, when he joined from Dunstable College.

Prospectus: 01206 712777; download the prospectus here.

UCAS code: C75

what you need to know

Easy to get into? With such a wide variety of qualifications available, entry requirements differ widely depending on course.

Foundation Degrees: Creative performance; business administration; computing solutions; construction management; film, music and soundtrack production; health and social care; management; management of hospitality; management of sport; musical theatre; photography; popular music; technical theatre.

Vital statistics: The largest vocational college in north Essex and offers more than 140 full-time and 700 part-time courses. Colchester Institute has approximately 12,000 students with more than 1,800 of them studying higher education programmes. A wide range of honours and foundation degrees is validated by the University of Essex.

Added value: Many of the College's courses offer personal and professional development modules, as well as work placements. They concentrate on degrees with strong links to business and the professions. The campuses offer almost 1,000 computers with internet access. A merger with Braintree College in 2010 has added two campuses to the Institute, providing vocational training in bricklaying, painting and decorating, hairdressing and beauty therapy.

Teaching: A 2006 Ofsted report rated the college as outstanding in hospitality and catering, satisfactory in information and communication technology, and health, public services and care, and good in all other areas.

Any accommodation? Some at the University of Essex halls of residence, University Quays, near to Colchester town centre for £102 per week. Homestays with host families can also be arranged.

Cheap to live there? Varies widely; around £70 per week for a student house share.

Transport links: The Colchester campus is within walking distance of the town centre and the railway station. London is less than two hours' drive away, while the railway station offers services to both London and Norwich. Both of the Clacton campuses are in walking distance of the Clacton railway station. The Church Lane Campus is within walking distance of Braintree railway station.

Fees: At Colchester Institute the fees are set into bands depending on the course type. Costs are between £6,000 for HNC/Ds to £8,000 for Music, Performing Arts and Art and Design courses. MA degrees cost between £3900 and £4500.

Bursaries: UK students, who commence their studies in 2013/14 and with a household income below £34,000 per year, are able to apply for a cash maintenance bursary. For more information visit the website.

the fun stuff

Glittering alumni: The Centre for Art, Design and Media has seen fashion students display their creations at a number of important shows such as Alternative Fashion Week in London. Music students have showcased their talents both locally and on a national scale such as classical guitarist Ian Harris and Sade. GMTV's Up On The Roof presenter Jamie Rickers was a past student.

Nightlife: There is a wide range of pubs and clubs in central Colchester and the Colchester Art Centre boasts live bands, comedy gigs and club nights. The Twist is the place to go for live rock and pop gigs. The Charter Hall and the Mercury theatre offer other artistic delights. Braintree has a multiplex cinema and a number of music venues.