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University for the Creative Arts, whose former students include Zandra Rhodes and Karen Millen, to close Rochester campus

University bosses have started consulting with staff over proposals to quit Medway.

The University for the Creative Arts (UCA) is planning to shut its Rochester campus by September 2023.

University for the Creative Arts, Rochester
University for the Creative Arts, Rochester

Although it hasn't specified its reasons, KentOnline understands financial pressures are involved in the decision.

It is believed the site employs up to 100 staff members and has 1,000 students.

A spokesman said: "From 2022, the university will be establishing Centres for Excellence to bring like-minded students and academics together around a shared passion for their creative subject.

"The plans will see UCA’s Rochester campus close in September 2023 as courses are aligned to the university’s other campuses in Canterbury, Epsom and Farnham.

"The vast majority of UCA’s current students will be able to finish their courses at Rochester and the university will ensure that as many staff as possible are redeployed to other campuses.

UCA chancellor emerita, Dame Zandra Rhodes
UCA chancellor emerita, Dame Zandra Rhodes

"UCA is incredibly proud of its Rochester heritage with many of its Rochester students having gone on to be leaders in their fields, including the university’s Chancellor Emerita, Dame Zandra Rhodes, Karen Millen and Stephen Webster.

"The university will continue its journey in Kent through its Canterbury campus, its partnership with Maidstone Television Studios and work with local partners, including Turner Contemporary and the Kent & Medway Progression Federation."

A series of briefings for staff are taking place with UCA bosses over the coming days informing them of the plans.

The campus on Fort Pitt Hill is home to hundreds of students and staff and gained university status in 2008 following a merger three years earlier from the Kent Institute of Art and Design and the Surrey Institute of Art and Design.

UCA also has a campus in Canterbury but it is not yet known whether the proposals in Medway will affect its site across the county.

UCA graduate and international designer Karen Millen
UCA graduate and international designer Karen Millen

The university offers a range of degrees in creative sectors from fashion, textiles, theatre design, TV production and photography.

The news has been received with shock.

Cllr Clive Johnson, Labour opposition spokesman for education at Medway Council, said: “UCA is a key employer in Medway, providing highly skilled, well-paid jobs that support our economy. Medway needs those jobs.

"Equally importantly, the UCA attracts students to live and study in Medway and it has an important role in raising the aspirations of Medway's young people, encouraging them to consider a career in the creative industries, which are central to the national economy.”

Cllr Vince Maple, opposition leader of Labour at Medway Council, said: “UCA is a key employer not only in my ward but also for the whole of Medway.

Cllr Clive Johnson
Cllr Clive Johnson

"I urge the UCA leadership to reconsider these proposals to withdraw from Medway.

"As Medway itself aspires to be a City of Culture, Medway Labour expects Medway Council to take urgent steps to ensure that the UCA remains an important local presence in the heart of the community.”

Medway Council has been approached for comment.

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