History: Born as the Government School of Design in 1837. The artist Alphonse Legros and the sculptor Jules Dalou worked there from 1875. Became The Royal College of Art in 1896.
Address: Kensington Gore, next to the Royal Albert Hall and facing Hyde Park. A second site, for sculpture and other heavy-duty activities, in Battersea, South London.
Ambience: Distinguished setting in the heart of ‘Albertopolis’, the stretch from Hyde Park to the V&A. Informal atmosphere.
Who's the boss? Design supremo Dr Paul Thompson, recently tempted back from the USA, where he was director of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Museum of Design, in order to take up the position of rector of the Royal College of Art.
UCAS code: Not part of UCAS.
What you need to know
Easy to get into? Some courses have more applications than others. Good first degree in a relevant subject preferred. First stage of selection by portfolio; final offers based on interviews.
Vital statistics: This all-postgraduate university of art and design is independent, with the power to award its own degrees. Around 800 masters and doctoral students and 120 members of staff, all of whom are practising artists, designers or writers. The college has seven schools: fine art; applied art; architecture and design; communications; design for production; fashion and textiles; humanities.
Added value: Five public galleries plus a drawing studio, technology centre, moving image studio, photography facilities, digital media studio and training room. Career help for students and graduates includes FuelRCA, set up to offer tailor-made advice and support, including workshops, seminars and mentoring services through a host of networks.
Teaching: The QAA institutional review resulted in two judgements of 'confidence' in the college's management of the academic standards of its awards, as well as the quality of learning opportunities available to students.
Research: The college’s position as the leading specialist art and design institution in the UK was recently confirmed by Research Assessment Exercise Results. An outstanding 65 per cent of the RCA’s research output was deemed to be world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigor. Well ahead of any other art school for research.
Any accommodation? None provided by the college but the student support office offers information and advice on finding a place in London.
Cheap to live there? No - students face steep local rents or an expensive commute from outer London. It's between £80 and £100 per week for a room in a shared house further out or upwards of £120 nearby.
Transport links: Plenty - this is central London.
Fees: New undergraduates will be charged the highest bracket of £9,000 by The RCA from September 2012. Overseas students will get hit by an astronomical £26,900 fee a year.
Bursaries: Students from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the EU may apply for a bursary of up to £3,500 towards fees. This is not available to PhD students.
The fun stuff
Nightlife: Small but lively students' union offers the recently refurbished Artbar, RCAfe and a terrace bar. Central London on your doorstep.
Sporting facilities: RCA students can make use of the facilities at Imperial College London including a pool, squash courts and a gym.
Glittering alumni: Architect Edwin Lutyens and sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. More recently: Gladiator director Sir Ridley Scott, illustrator Quentin Blake; clothes designer Zandra Rhodes, the hat man Philip Treacy, and David Hockney and chums, including RB Kitaj and Tracey Emin.