Art students are set to take over the keys of the Minories.

Colchester Institute's school of art and design is to move into the Tudor building, which will be empty next spring when Firstsite moves into the huge new complex on the old bus station site.

The intention is to use the building as a gallery to display students' work to the public, and as a base for a planned MA Arts in the Community programme, which is still to be validated by the University of Essex.

Postgraduate students will run the gallery, providing a work experience element to their studies.

Head of art Alan Smith said: "Our vision is to establish a vibrant educational centre in the heart of Colchester's emerging cultural quarter, which is artistically accessible to the local and tourist community.

"We are very excited and look forward to calling the Minories home."

Colchester Institute has been chosen as the preferred occupants by the building's owner, the Victor Batte-Lay Trust, but a formal tenancy has yet to be signed.

In the knowledge that Firstsite was moving out, the trustees put the tenancy for the building, its gardens and gothic folly out to tender in September, attracting three applicants.

A spokesman for the trust declined to name the other two candidates, but said that the college's application "ticked all the right boxes".

"The trustees believe a very positive solution to the future of the Minories has been found, which would have the blessing of the benefactor and will ensure that the community to which Mrs Batte Lay wished to benefit from her generosity will continue to do so," she said.

"With the new tenant, the Minories will continue to be open to the public and provide a service which will have wide-ranging appeal and accessibility, whilst at the same time complement regeneration activity in the locality."

The trust was set up by the widow of Victor Batte-Lay, a hereditary freeman of Colchester and avid art collector, who died in 1935.

It is "endowed and used for the benefits of Colchester and, in particular, for those having an artistic or antiquarian interest".

The trust bought the Minories in 1956 and ran it as an art gallery until financial problems forced it to close in 1992, and Firstsite took on the tenancy in 1994.