Published: Tuesday, 17th January 2023

MidKent College is opening a new Art school, expanding its art courses for the people of Medway and Kent to offer qualifications to university level.

Degree level courses will be accredited through the University of Kent, replacing the University for Creative Arts (UCA) which closes in September 2023.

Vibrant and innovative creative sector

MidKent College principal, Simon Cook, said: “There is growing recognition of the importance of the creative arts as a driver of economic growth in the UK and MidKent College is proud of its continuing contribution to the skills needed in this sector. The opening of Medway School of Arts represents the latest in a series of developments emerging from Medway’s vibrant and innovative creative sector. We have a strong legacy of creative arts education across the towns that developed the careers of famous names such as Zandra Rhodes, Tony Hart, Karen Millen and Tracy Emin. The partnership approach to ensuring that we can sustain university-level creative education in the towns is fantastic, and we’re delighted to be working with forward-thinking, passionate and committed organisations to bring this plan to fruition."

Medway School of Art is working in partnership with the University of Kent’s Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries (iCCi) and Medway Council.

Innovative new era

Director of iCCi Professor Catherine Richardson, said: "We are very excited to be working with MidKent to develop an ambitious vision for creative skills development in Medway. This is part of the university’s wider investment in cultural and creative industries that will support the growth of the local creative economy, which is central to our plans for education and research in Medway. We’re at the start of a really innovative new era here!"

In 2025, iCCi will be opening Docking Station – a brand new hub for the cultural and creative industries in Medway with a focus on immersive digital technology, based on Chatham Historic Dockyard.

Supporting young people

Cllr Howard Doe, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “Medway is home to many talented artists and creatives that received excellent arts education and have developed their practice here in Medway. We are delighted that future generations will be able to continue this legacy at the new Medway School of Art led by MidKent College. Alongside our Medway Adult Education centres that offers creative education courses, and we are looking forward to working with the new school to support young people in developing their creative careers and businesses. I welcome and commend this superb new School of Arts and wish it the success it deserves. The Medway School of Art also supports the delivery Medway’s cultural strategy, delivered by Creative Medway, which aims for Medway to be internationally recognised for its creativity and culture by 2030.”

Creative eco-system in Medway

Fiona Watt, Chair of Creative Medway said: "We are heartened by MidKent College’s rapid response to the deficit of arts education that the imminent closure of the University of the Creative Arts Rochester campus represents for Medway. A Medway School of Arts is vital to who we are. Medway is a place and a creative eco system in which institutions like this have played a vital part socially and economically. We look forward to working with the team at Mid Kent to build a resilient network of support for the sector, continuing the Medway legacy of excellence provided by internationally recognised practitioners and educators who have dedicated themselves to building the skills and talents of our young people."

MidKent College already offers art, design & media, graphic design and fine art in both its Gillingham and Maidstone campuses at from Level 1-3 but introducing the Medway School of Art means students can expand their education to degree level.

Catalyst to offer real opportunity

Jatin Patel, Creative Director of slow fashion brand Kalikas Armour, which is based in INTRA, Hulkes Lane, Rochester, says having the new Medway School of Art is 'absolutely crucial' so young people can experiment, explore and express themselves before going into the specialisms of the creative industries. He is a UCA alumni, having studied for his BA and Masters in Fashion there.

He said: "It is more important than ever because the needs of the world have changed, the careers or roles are going to be so different in the next five to six years with the innovation of digital and technology that is integrated into everything. We have to be reactive to what the world needs with a massive emphasis on real purpose and sustainability. I'm really excited and pleased that this collaboration has come together as a catalyst to offer real opportunity to create culture and creativity in Medway. The new Medway School of Art will help build and strengthen the infrastructure for the creative industries here leading to a highly skilled and informed workforce, that lifts the whole economy."

The Medway School of Art will open to students from September 2024.

There is demand for this level of arts education

Clare Roach, Creative Arts HE Centre Lead, Medway School of Arts, has previously worked for West Kent College running their Creative Arts HE provision and the Ashford School of Art & Design, both pivotal in bringing arts education at all levels to the local vicinities. She said: “We know there is a demand for this level of arts education in Medway and the surrounding areas. The cost of university courses away from home mean young people are keen to study locally if they can, and the Medway School of Arts is going to give them that option. We are also working closely with the local creative ecosystem and Medway Council to ensure the plan for the School of Arts meets the needs of the whole community and encourages people not only to study in Medway, but then stay in the area and run a range of businesses.”

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