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The University of Plymouth is the 11th largest university in the United Kingdom by total number of students (including the Open University). It has over 30,000 students, almost 3,000 staff and an annual income of around £160 million. It was founded in 1992 from Polytechnic South West following the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. It has courses in maritime business, marine engineering, marine biology and Earth, ocean and environmental sciences, surf science, shipping and logistics.
The city is also home to three large colleges. The University College Plymouth St Mark & St John (known as "Marjon"), which specialises in teacher training, offers training across the country and abroad. The City College Plymouth provides courses from the most basic to Foundation degrees for approximately 26,000 students. Plymouth College of Art offers a selection of courses including media. It was started 153 years ago and is now one of only four independent colleges of art and design in the UK. Plymouth also has 71 state primary phase schools, 13 state secondary schools, eight special schools and three selective state grammar schools, as well as an independent school, Plymouth College.
The city was also home to the Royal Naval Engineering College; opened in 1880 in Keyham, it trained engineering students for five years before they completed the remaining two years of the course at Greenwich. The college closed in 1910, but in 1940 a new college opened at Manadon. This was renamed Dockyard Technical College in 1959 before finally closing in 1994; training was transferred to the University of Southampton.
Plymouth is home to the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, which focuses on global issues of climate change and sustainability. It monitors the effects of ocean acidity on corals and shellfish and reports the results to the UK government. It also cultivates algae that could be used to make biofuels or in the treatment of waste water by using technology such as photo-bioreactors. It works alongside the Boots Group to investigate the use of algae in skin care protects, taking advantage of the chemicals they contain that adapt to protect themselves from the sun.
In August 2009, the Office for National Statistics estimated that Plymouth's unitary authority area population for mid-2008 was 252,800; 12,080 more people than that of the last census from 2001, which indicated that Plymouth had a population of 240,720. The average household size was 2.3 persons.
To the right is a graph showing the population change of the city since 1801. The population rose rapidly during the second half of the 19th century, but declined by over 1.6% from 1931 to 1951. Plymouth's gross value added (a measure of its economy) was 3.501 billion GBP in 2004 making up approximately one quarter of Devon's economy. Its GVA per capita was £14,327 and compared to the national average of £17,115, it was £2,788 lower.
Plymouth's unemployment rate was 5.7% in January-December 2008 which was 1.6 points higher than the South West average and equal to the average for Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). At the time of the 2001 UK census, the ethnic composition of Plymouth's population was 98.4% White, with the largest minority ethnic group being Chinese at 0.3%.
Because of its coastal location, the economy of Plymouth has traditionally been maritime, in particular the defence sector with over 12,000 people employed and approximately 7,500 in the armed forces. The Plymouth Gin Distillery has been producing Plymouth Gin since 1793, which was exported around the world by the Royal Navy.During the 1930s, it was the most widely distributed gin and has a controlled term of origin. Since the 1980s, employment in the defence sector has decreased substantially and the public sector is now prominent particularly in administration, health, education, medicine and engineering.