IN the heart of Bradford's urban sprawl lies an oasis of calm and tranquility, where professional pampering comes at affordable prices.

Bradford College's Hairdressing, Beauty Therapy Salon and Spa dominates the first floor of the college's new David Hockney Building, offering a range of services in health, wellbeing and beauty.

The vibrant hub is largely run by students as a vocational training centre; providing those on courses related to customer care with valuable work experience.

The stylish salon and spa complex, which opened last September, is open to the public, and could rival any professional spa. The difference is in the price range. A full day spa package - use of sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, a facial or manicure/pedicure or full body massage/hot stone massage, plus lunch and afternoon tea - is £30.

Treatments include facials, an "eyebrow package", Indian head massage, spray tans, waxing, hair styling and colouring, skin rejuvination and hair removal. Students are trained to a high standard by a team of specialists.

I'd expected to walk into a 'mock-up' of a salon, where students practice styling and beauty techniques in a learning environment, but from the moment I took a seat in the chic reception area, it felt like being in a top spa retreat.

Nearly 250 students are learning to be hair stylists, nail technicians and beauticians at Bradford College. Most courses last two years, and students can go on to higher levels for more specialist training. The college also offers apprenticeships and work experience placements with local businesses.

Students working in the college salons are Level 2. Working with customers helps them utilise their skills and gets them used to working with the public in a service industry.

"The tutors are great, they've been in the industry a long time and have a lot of professional experience," says Mohammed Sohail, 18, one of an increasing number of male students taking hair and beauty courses. "Male grooming is big business now, and men are taking more interest in beauty techniques and products. I'd like to run my own hair salon eventually.

"Working with the public helps with our social and conversation skills; that side of the job is as important as the technical side."

Although the salon complex is part of the college building, a separate entrance gives it a more private feel. With reflective full-length windows, there's a light, airy feel, and the overall look is contemporary chic.

"It was designed by the team behind some of the world's top spas," says Janice Richardson, programme manager for hair and beauty therapy. "Clients get the full salon and spa treatment, at much lower prices than other spas. It's a professional service, with high quality products and facilities, and we offer half and full-day packages.

"The students get the experience of working in a salon environment, interacting with clients."

Each salon has a relaxed, tranquil ambience, from the nail bar, offering deluxe manicures and pedicures as well as nail repair and acrylic sets, to the training hair salon, recently opened by celebrity stylist Patrick Cameron. There is also a barbering course.

The tranquil spa rooms have a whirlpool, sauna and steam room, there's a spray tan booth, and a beauty salon offering a range of services, including make-up sessions for special events, and bridal and theatrical make-up.

"Students do the hair and make-up for the college fashion shows," says Janice. "Hair and beauty are popular courses; there are lots of different career opportunities within the industry. A lot of high street stores have their own beauty element now, and nail care and nail art is a growing industry.

"The students working here are Level 2 and 3, and some are doing an HND. They can go on to Level 4, which is more specialised."

A laser clinic is stocked with state-of-the-art equipment, used on Harley Street, for hair removal and skin rejuvination.

"Laser treatment is popular, and a major part of the industry now," says Janice. "It's a constantly evolving industry, with new equipment as well as trends and styles. Students need to keep up with these industry changes."

The spa complex, which also includes study areas, is open in term time, up to 8.30pm. Final year students and graduates also work in Centenary Hair and Nails, the college's cutting-edge salon in Bradford's City Park, which is open all year round.

"That's a commercial operation, whereas the spa is more of a learning environment. Students have classes here and are assessed here, but they still have the experience of working with the public," says Janice.

A full day spa package includes lunch in the college's silver service Grove Restaurant, which recently added the Times Education Supplement's Team of the Year prize to its growing collection of awards. Staffed by catering students, the restaurant is open plan, allowing diners to see into the kitchen. Students on cookery and food service courses meet diners after their meal for feedback.

The menu includes ham hock terrine, beetroot and lime cured salmon with Russian pancake, slow braised gammon with puy lentil stew and dumplings, poached saffron peach and macadamia baklava strips.

A touch of indulgence to round off a day of pampering.

Bradford College Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy Salon and Spa, David Hockney Building, Bradford College. Tel. (01274) 436114 or 433413.