UK’s Oldest Graduate Completes Fine Art Degree

A 96-year-old former solicitor has completed a degree in fine art, making him the oldest ever student to graduate in the UK.

Archie White studied subjects including photography, clay modelling, painting and Photoshop to complete the BA course at East Sussex College in Hastings.

Archie – who took retirement at the age of 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.”

However, the nonagenarian admitted that learning the principles of Photoshop had left him “dazed”.

He added: “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.”

Archie hoped that the initiative would ensure other art graduates could utilise the college’s facilities post-degree to begin 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.”

Archie’s achievement isn’t quite a world record though. The oldest graduate is a Japanese student named Shigemi Hirata who was 96 and 200 days when he completed his art and design degree six years ago – and Archie was 144 days younger when he graduated.