History: The origins of the college can be traced back to 1843, when educational classes for employees were started by the Great Western Railway Company. It started out as a technical college providing training to rail workers, and also as a secondary school. The late 19th century saw the development of the School of Art, the first purpose built art school in the south-west of England.

Address: The main campus is located in central Swindon, five minutes from the town centre and next door to one of Swindon's largest leisure centres.

Ambience: The new main campus building was opened in 2006 and offers state-of-the-art facilities over three floors including: A new HE Common Room with computing facilities, TV and lounge/eating area; a large Learning Resource Centre; the School of Art (the oldest in the south west); a gym; a lecture theatre and a large Refectory. The building is light, modern and clean. Student feedback is overwhelmingly that of a calm, friendly and safe place in which to study.

Who's the boss? The principal is Andrew Miller, who has worked extensively in the FE sector with a background in economics and business studies.

Prospectus: 0800 731 2250 or visit the website here.

UCAS code: S98 (Swindon College courses); O66 (Oxford Brookes courses); B16 (Bath courses)

What you need to know

Easy to get into: Not bad, most foundation degrees ask for an average of 240 UCAS points. Many HE courses ask for previous professional experience or related lower-level qualifications. The work-related degree and FD programmes are tailored to fit around students’ existing employment.

Foundation Degrees: Business; management and communications; early years; engineering systems; sport (sports therapy); support for learning.

Vital statistics: The college has around 500 higher education students, 2,300 full time further education students, 500 apprentices and 6,000 part time students. Academic and business support staff numbers total 630. HE courses include masters' degrees, honours' degrees, foundation degrees, HNDs, HNCs and professional qualifications. Some courses are validated by Oxford Brookes University and the University of Bath.

Added value: A new HE centre opened in November 2010 and is home to a chill-out area with comfy sofas and a 42" plasma screen TV, a seating area for food and drinks with kitchen facilities, an internet café-style bar and an adjoining computer suite with 12 PC workstations. The Swindon College School of Art is one of the oldest established art schools in the south-west and offers two unique degree programmes - an MA in archaeological illustration and a BA in illustration (narrative and sequential) - plus workshops and a photography studio with darkroom and printmaking facilities. The annual graduation ceremony takes place in October with a procession leading up to the ceremony in the Holy Rood Church. Students can take advantage of on-site training facilities such as hair salons, beauty clinics and the training restaurant at very reasonable prices.

Teaching: Comments from Ofsted in 2010 stated that '‘teaching and learning are good', 'assessment is good, teachers use a variety of techniques well' and ‘students are supported appropriately and their progress is monitored carefully’. Following its last QAA Integrated Quality Enhancement Review (IQER) of higher education within Swindon College, the resulting report showed confidence in the college’s academic standards and quality of learning opportunities, noting many areas of good practice. Swindon College is the top performing college in Wiltshire, according to the Framework for Excellence results 2010.

Any accommodation? None provided by the college but the accommodation advisor keeps a list of privately-owned accommodation suitable for students. All properties on the list are checked for health and safety standards by Swindon Borough Council.

Cheap to live there? About average - a room in a shared flat will usually cost around £70 to £85 per week.

Transport links: Swindon is centrally located in the south of England - within an hour’s drive of London, Reading, Cheltenham, Oxford, Bath, Bristol and Cardiff - at Junctions 15 and 16 of the M4. The college itself is situated five minutes’ walk from both the mainline rail station, Swindon bus station and the town centre. Students can buy annual permits to use the college on-site pay and display car parks.

Fees: Full-time BA courses charge £7,000 annually with certain 'top-up' programmes costing £7,500.

Bursaries: Means-tested Swindon College Bursary of £850 per year to eligible HE students. There is also the Progression Bursary of £540 to students who are moving from FE to HE at the college. Students may also be able to apply for bursaries through partner universities.

The fun stuff

Nightlife: Swindon’s nightlife is diverse and lively with a wide choice of clubs offering a variety of music styles to suit all tastes. There are plenty of bars in the town centre as well as more traditional pubs in the surrounding towns and villages. A vast array of restaurants offer a wealth of menus from many cultures. Swindon regularly hosts culture festivals and music concerts throughout the summer months.

Sporting facilities: Sports and fitness classes on offer as part of the Resolve programme to increase the confidence of young people.

Glittering alumni: Actor Lyndon Ogbourne (Emmerdale); artist Ken White (muralist and creator of Virgin’s Scarlet Lady); musician Gilbert O’Sullivan and Andy Partridge (XTC); children’s author Chantal Bourgonje.