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The University for the Creative Arts at Fort Pitt Hill, Rochester where Zandra Rhodes, Tracey Emin and Karen Millen studied, is packing up ahead of closure

After a history spanning 170 years, a college which has produced some of the most famous names in the fashion and arts world is preparing to move out.

The University for the Creative Arts is shutting its site in Rochester in September – despite high-profile campaigns and petitions to keep it in the Medway Towns.

Empty classrooms at UCA, Rochester
Empty classrooms at UCA, Rochester

The controversial move to transfer to colleges in Canterbury and Farnham and Epsom in Surrey has led to redundancies, but the exact number is not yet known..

The site employs up to 100 staff and has about 1,000 students.

The relocation, announced in May 2021, was blamed on not having the £17 million needed to upgrade the landmark building on Fort Pitt Hill, high running costs and cuts in government funding.

Dr Curtis Tappenden, a lecturer with more than 33 years experience, is among those losing his job.

The accomplished artist, author and poet said: “UCA Rochester was my starting place – a brilliant training springboard into a professional career.

Inside UCA as they start to move out
Inside UCA as they start to move out

“Like so many, I benefited as a teenager growing up in north Kent with a dynamic art school on my doorstep and, with its legacy and history of brilliance across so many fields of art and design, it is sadly a provision which will no longer be there for future school leavers in the area.”

Fashion designer icon Zandra Rhodes who attended UCA, when it was known as Medway Arts College spoke out after news of the closure was released.

Ms Rhodes and fellow designer Karen Millen expressed sadness and disappointment, raising concern about the impact it will have on the creative sector in Medway.

Dr David Stokes, who heads The Halpern Charitable Foundation which oversees galleries and work spaces for artists in Medway, put in a bid to make it an Asset of Community Value.

But the ACV, which Dr Stokes believed would have secured its future, was rejected.

Large skips in the corridors of a once busy arts college
Large skips in the corridors of a once busy arts college

As UCA leaves, MidKent College is finaslising plans to open its Medway School of Arts in the Towns.

A venue is expected to be announced at the beginning of next month and a “small cohort” will be enrolling on a foundation course in September.

A spokesman for the college, which has campuses in Gillingham and Maidstone, said: ”We are waiting to pick up the keys and already have students lined up.

“We will initially be offering a foundation diploma between A-level and university and launching higher education level in September 2024.

“We will be spending the summer months refurbishing the new building.”

Dr Curtis Tappenden (right) has won a reputation for his ringside circus sketches
Dr Curtis Tappenden (right) has won a reputation for his ringside circus sketches

Anyone interested or wanting more information should visit the MidKent College website.

Dr Stokes, whose charity oversees galleries and art working space at its Nucleus hubs in Medway, welcomed the new college.

He said : “We carried out a survey among UCA students and it became clear that UCA provided a vital resource for Medway and particularly for those who did not do well at school.”

A spokesman for UCA said: “At UCA we are transforming what we do so that we can shape the future of creativity across the world and support our students to develop the creative talents that will set them up for their future career.

“As part of this process, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from Rochester in autumn 2023 and to invest in creating Centres of Excellence at our three remaining campuses in Kent and Surrey.

University for the Creative Arts, Rochester - moving out
University for the Creative Arts, Rochester - moving out

“The vast majority of students at Rochester will be graduating this summer and we are providing bespoke support to a small number of students who will be transferring to other campuses to complete their studies.

“We are continuing to work with colleagues at Rochester to redeploy as many staff as possible and to provide a wide-range of support to those who are affected by this change.”

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