Aged 96 - is this Hastings man the oldest graduate in the UK?

A Fine Art degree student at East Sussex College in Hastings has become one of the UK’s oldest graduates at the age of 96.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 9:50 am

a Archie White, who was born in 1925, has lived an incredible life and worked as a solicitor up to the age of 92. He started his BA (Hons) Fine Art Practice degree at East Sussex College in 2018 after being inspired by a friend and developing a passion for exploring the works of some of the finest artists in history.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed studying here, and the experiences have been fascinating, but learning Photoshop left me dazed,” joked Archie.

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

Archie White who has gained a university degree at the age of 96 SUS-211207-132733001
Archie White who has gained a university degree at the age of 96 SUS-211207-132733001

“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. Then we learned Photoshop, which was fun, but not really for me.”

At 96 years and 56 days, Archie is thought to be the oldest person in the UK to complete a degree. At the time of submitting his final piece of work to the University of Brighton exam board, Archie was just 145 days short of being a world record holder - currently held by a Japanese graduate who was 96 years and 200 days old.

Archie said he wasn’t too bothered about any records and was just really pleased to have been a part of the course and is determined to give something back to his fellow and any future graduates by setting up a charity to support them.

Archie 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. With the support of the college and the charity, graduates will be able to utilise the college facilities and resources to create work and start their careers.”

Hannah Birkett, BA (Hons) 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 was able to exhibit his final major project paintings at the End of Year Art Degree show at the end of June to round off his final year. He will now continue to work on setting up the charity before hopefully attending his graduation ceremony later this year.