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Essex, University of



Overall ranking: Came 34th out of 126 in the Complete University Guide for 2016.

History: One of nine new universities founded in the early 1960s, Essex opened in 1964 with 122 students, 28 teaching staff and seven departments. The vision of its founding vice-chancellor Sir Albert Sloman was to develop a small number of large internationally-renowned departments with an interdisciplinary, contemporary and international outlook. Sir Albert's 1963 BBC Reith Lectures on the theme of 'A University in the Making' give an insight into the university's history.

Address: Main site is two miles from Colchester. East 15 Acting School has three sites in Loughton, on the outskirts of London, and there is also a site in Southend.

Ambience: Set in Constable country, Essex was put up in the sixties. Built of concrete on a greenfield site it is set in 200 acres of parkland with three lakes. Main features of the skyline are six brick-built residential towers each divided into 14-16 flats. Recent investment at Colchester and at the Southend campus, and a new campus in Suffolk in partnership with the University of East Anglia.

Who's the boss? Professor Anthony Forster, a political scientist, took up his post as vice-chancellor in August 2012.

Prospectus: Request one online here.

UCAS code: E70

What you need to know

Easy to get into? Pretty competitive. Between BBC and ABB at A-level (280-320 UCAS points) for most honours degrees. Once you're in, you can also switch degrees at the end of the first year if you aren't keen on your course.

Vital statistics: A small and friendly university with over 12,000 students across three campuses. Hefty contingent of international students from 135 countries, and a large graduate school. Essex had a wild and woolly youth but has since grown respectable and academic. Still a centre for the social sciences.

Added value: Encourages overseas study. Houses the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) incorporating the ESRC Centre of Micro-Social Change. ISER co-ordinates the UK Household Longitudinal Study, Understanding Society. Also home to an astonishing collection of modern Latin American art. Recently opened £1.4m sports centre with the state-of-the-art Evolve gym featuring cutting-edge fitness technology.  Facilities at the Colchester Campus have been improved with the development of the PC-equipped Limehouse learning space. A £21m Student Centre and library extension recently opened, along with a £22m complex of town houses called The Meadows that will accommodate up to 650 students. Essex is worth more than an incredible £200m a year to the local economy.

Teaching: Came an impressive 8th out of 126 for student satisfaction in the Complete University Guide.

Graduate prospects: Placed 68th with 64.2 per cent entering graduate level employment.

Any accommodation? Plenty. Standard rooms start at £73.15 per week and en-suites at £124.74.

Cheap to live there? Certainly, by the standards of the south-east.

Transport links: Good if you want to reach the Continent, the rest of East Anglia and London. Less than an hour from London by train. Not so good for the rest of the UK. Stansted Airport is less than an hour away and there is a coach service to and from the airport.

Fees: Essex charges home and EU undergraduates the maximum fee of £9,000, with overseas students paying between £9,000 and £12,950.

Bursaries: The university takes part in the National Scholarship Programme, offering students from households earning under £25,000 a cash bursary of £2,000 or the same amount off university accommodation, with another £1,000 and £500 in years two and three. For more information on the NSP and other bursaries, click here.

The fun stuff

Nightlife: Several bars and venues on campus including the award-winning  Sub Zero, open late for club nights and live music. The Students' Union bar recently underwent a £400,000 refurbishment and the annual summer ball is the highlight of the year.

Price of a pint: You're looking at around £2.50.

Sporting reputation: Good- ranked 38th in the current BUCS league.

Notable societies: A new society dedicated solely to FIFA tournaments is coming soon, while Mario Kart Society has been running for a while with hugely popular fancy dress socials. Plenty of music-based groups for a variety of genres.

Glittering alumni: David Yates, director of Harry Potter films The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince; Daniel Libeskind, world-renowned architect commissioned to design the flagship building for New York’s former World Trade Centre site; Dr Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize Winner; Rudolfo Neri Vela, Mexico's only astronaut; late diplomatic broadcast journalist Brian Hanrahan; Ben Okri, Booker prize-winner; and Nick Broomfield, documentary film maker.

Alternative prospectus: Read some What Uni? reviews and check out star ratings from current Essex students for an insight into what life as a student here is really like.