In a shock announcement on the 5th May 2021, it was revealed that the Rochester campus of the University of Creative Arts (previously Kent Institute of Art and Design) would be closing after over 40 years. According to an inside source, this was announced in muted virtual meeting where no questions allowed by those who would be now extremely anxious about where they would be going to work. The college has been the home to many successful artists, such as Tracey Emin and Billy Childish, the latter being named by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana as an inspiration.
The initial reason that has been given is that it will cost upwards of £18,000,000 to bring the buildings up to code. Our question is why have the buildings been allowed to get in that state to begin with? Apparently there have been leaking roofs and plumbing issues for some time, why were these not fixed in a timely manner? This is typical capitalist neglect. It indicates a focus on profit rather than sustainability. Management know they are on prime real estate – by Jackson’s Field overlooking Rochester High Street. The land will most likely follow the route of the two closed Mid Kent College campuses and become luxury homes out of reach of regular Medway residents.
What this is a continuation of the Conservative government attacks on Higher Education. The closure of both Horsed and City Way Mid Kent College deprives those who thrive better in a vocational education rather than an academic setting. In the past those who in Medway could not or did not want to stay in the mainstream school system post-16, had the choice of three college campuses or the ‘arts school’, i.e., University of Creative Arts. A source inside the UCA has said that there have been supposed complaints about too many ‘young people’ in the Rochester campus due to 16–18-year-olds taking pre-degree courses. This is precisely the age group that would be disenfranchised due to the campus closure, leading either to low-income jobs or the dole queue.
Local Conservative MPs Tracey Crouch, Kelly Tolhurst and Rehman Chishti gave crocodile tears to the Kent Messenger stating the closure is ‘a devastating blow to our cultural heritage and what Medway has to offer…It’s sad to think of that whole thing closing down and poor old Medway being the one that suffers’. This is pure opportunism. We have no confidence in the representatives of Boris Johnson’s government defend education – something their party has repeatedly taken the axe to.
Labour MP for Canterbury Rosie Duffield and leader of Medway Labour Vince Maple have pledged their support and we he hope they follow words with deeds. As socialists, though, we know we cannot put our faith in the Labour Party, especially at this time where the left is being persecuted inside the party. What we must do is rally students/ex-students, the community and most importantly the colleges workers inside the trade unions who can provide the force and leverage to keep the UCA open, stop any redundancies and kick out the profiteers. We fight for the arts college to be run by and for staff, students and the local community. Stop the closure!