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Study in Alabama

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Located in the heart of the Deep South, Alabama enjoys a subtropical climate, beautiful and varied natural scenery, and rich offerings in the fields of history and culture.

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As well as some of the highest summer temperatures in the US and relatively mild winters, Alabama's subtropical climate also brings the state a healthy amount of rain, as well as some more severe weather.

The state’s geography is equally varied, ranging from mountains in the north to beaches on the south coast. Much of the central region is composed of gentle plains, criss-crossed by a number of notable lakes and rivers, of which the largest are the Tennessee River and Guntersville Lake.

The great outdoors certainly plays an important role in Alabama life; hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, cycling, climbing and rafting are all popular pastimes.

But the state is also rich in history and culture.

From Native American heritage to Civil War sites and key events in the Civil Rights Movement (including the Rosa Parks bus incident), history buffs will find no shortage of material.

There are also many high quality dramatic venues, an exciting folk art renaissance under way, and a vibrant live music scene – this is, after all, one of the great homes of American country, blues, rock and gospel.

Alabama's largest cities are fairly widely spread out. Montgomery and Birmingham are central, Huntsville in the north, Tuscaloosa in the west, and Mobile in the south – where the Mobile River meets the Gulf of Mexico.

Alabama: Fast facts

• Total state population is 4.8 million (2011)

• Capital is Montgomery; largest city by population is Birmingham

• Located in south-east of US; borders with Tennessee to north, Georgia to east, Florida and Gulf of Mexico to south, and Mississippi to west

• Famous Alabamians include writers Truman Capote and Harper Lee, musician Nat ‘King’ Cole and actress Courtney Cox

• Most popular sports are American football, baseball and motorsports

• The first rocket to put humans on the moon was built in Huntsville, which is now home to the US Space and Rocket Center

• Alabama’s fifth-largest city Tuscaloosa was named ‘America’s Most Liveable City’ by the US Conference of Mayors in 2011, joint with Florida’s Tallahassee

• Memorable town names include Aimwell, Slapout, Smut Eye, Trickem, Burnt Corn and Equality

Top universities in Alabama

In total, Alabama has more than 60 universities to choose from, including both public and private, four-year and two-year institutions.

The University of Alabama (UA) is both the state’s largest university and its highest ranked – it makes the top 450 of the QS World University Rankings in 2011/12.

Nicknamed ‘the capstone’ (ie. the capstone of the state’s higher education system), UA is the flagship institution of the University of Alabama System, which also includes the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

The similarity of names may be a little confusing, but – while all three universities report to the Board of Trustees University of Alabama System – each is basically run independently.

UA has a strong focus on research, but also prides itself on being student-centred. This means it offers a wide range of support services for students, including a free bus service around the (large) campus, more than 4,000 part-time campus jobs for students, and a dedicated Women’s Resource Center.

As of the start of the 2011-12 academic year, a total of 31,747 students were enrolled at UA. Of these, more than 60% were from within the state, almost 35% from elsewhere in the US, and 4% were international students – hailing from 77 different countries.

With a mixture of academic and vocational courses on offer, the spread of majors being taken by students includes: arts and sciences subjects, business, engineering, communication, education, law, nursing and social work.

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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