Student, 96, becomes UK’s oldest ever graduate

Student, 96, becomes UK’s oldest ever graduate
Retired solicitor Archie White has just completed degree in fine art

A 96-year-old student has become the oldest ever graduate in the UK after completing a degree in fine art.

Archie White learned painting, photography, clay modelling and even Photoshop as part of the BA course at East Sussex College in Hastings.

The one-time solicitor – who only retired when he was 92 – said: “The experience has been fascinating…

“A friend of mine studied here and enjoyed it, so that gave me the idea when I retired to come here.

“The first year included a series of more or less introductory courses to the fine arts so we dabbled in photography and making negatives, then we did clay modelling, which was great fun.”

But he added that getting his head around Photoshop had left him “dazed”.

His feat is not quite a world record. The oldest ever person to graduate was Japanese student Shigemi Hirata who was 96 and 200 days when he completed his art and design degree in 2016. Mr White , by comparison, was a sprightly 96 and 56 days.

All the same, he vowed to now make the most of his new skills.

He said: “I shall carry on painting now that I have finished. If anyone is foolish enough to pay me for my paintings, I shall be amused, but if they don’t, it doesn’t matter.

“I’ve had a long and enjoyable career, but one of the things I am most concerned about is for most people graduating, there is an inevitability almost, of them failing to make a living as an artist, a potter, photographer or modeller.

“That is why I am planning to create a charity to support graduates. I am waiting for final clearance from the Charity Commission to run the charity at East Sussex College Hastings so that people who graduate are not lost.”

He said the scheme would ensure other art graduates could utilise the colleague’s facilities post-degree to help kick-start their careers.

Hannah Birkett, the fine art course leader at East Sussex College, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to teach Archie over the last three years. He brings a unique contribution to the course, and his personal development has been extraordinary.

“Archie has refined his painting practice in a supportive, diverse year group, and has been an active contributor to discussion and debate.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed working with him, and wish him all the best for the future.”

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