Conservation Care & Management for Collections

Graduate Diploma Conservation Care and Management for Collections

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Applications open October 2024 for a September 2025 start
Duration: One academic year (36 weeks) full time
School: Conservation
Location: West Dean - including a six-week work placement elsewhere to support a student’s interest area
Scholarships and bursaries: See available funding

The Graduate Diploma (Level 6) is the start of your career in conservation and management of heritage collections. Using the historic interiors, collections and archive at West Dean as your teaching environment, you will learn to plan and deliver collection care, to exercise evaluative judgement and become evidence based and solution driven in delivering organisational priorities. Team-working, negotiation, communication and reflective practice skills are utilised throughout the programme and this skillset is sought after in the heritage sector and transferable to other professional contexts.

You will be introduced to the weekly, monthly and seasonal routines associated with managing historic collections, such as environmental monitoring and pest management. By working alongside our conservation studies programmes specialising in books, ceramics, clocks, furniture and metalwork, you will gain an understanding of the materiality of different kinds of collections and you will have the opportunity to learn from our science tutors about the types of analysis that can be undertaken to inform collections care.

Issues that influence contemporary collections management, such as repatriation, reinterpretation, inclusivity and sustainable practice are investigated and discussed in partnership with our GD Conservation Studies students. As the year progresses you are introduced to increasingly complex situations and can participate in some of the more ad hoc features of collections care, such as preparing items for loans, outreach activities, disaster planning, surveys and condition checking.

There is a six-week placement running up to the spring vacation and this allows you to explore  a different working environment, such as an archive, museum or heritage site and to further develop your professional skills and build networks.

The programme culminates in you presenting a portfolio of work that includes contextual work, professional practice and critical reflection. This takes the form of a collection care and management report, presentation and poster on a collection or practical project such as a collections care or conservation analysis, option evaluation, planning, or case study.

Course structure

Course features

Unique features

  • Students learn through working in West Dean House on a significant mixed collection.
  • Students are exposed to a range of cultural materials and allied experiences through lectures, live projects, visiting practitioners and visits.
  • Immersive environment encourages joint learning and interdisciplinary practice.
  • Students are given opportunities to build professional contacts and networks.
  • The programme has a low student to staff ratio.
  • Programme incorporates a work placement element.
  • Staff have a broad range of professional conservation experience from institutional to commercial heritage contexts.

Course units

Term 1 (10 weeks)

Principles of Collections Care & Management (30 credits)

Composition of materials (10 credits)

Collections and context

Term 2 (10 weeks)

Practical Approaches to Collections Care and Management 1 Work placement element 6 weeks (40 credit)

Collections and context

Term 3 (10 weeks)

Practical Approaches to Collections Care and Management 2 (30 credits)

Collections and context (10 credits)


Contact hours


On the Graduate Diploma, you typically have around 24 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 6 hours of lectures or demonstrations
  • 1 hour of seminars and peer to peer presentations
  • 14 hours of supervised practical activities
  • 1 hour of one-to-one meetings/tutorials

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars, workshops or other timetabled sessions, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study for approximately 13-14 hours per week. Typically, this will involve:

  • Reading journal articles and books
  • Working on individual and group projects
  • Undertaking research in the library
  • Preparing coursework assignments and presentations

Overall workload

Graduate Diploma: 60% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 760 hours, including placement
Independent learning: 440 hours

Term dates

Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for the UK and international students

  • £4,880 per term (£14,640 per academic year)

Lunch, accommodation and other living expenses are additional. Find out more

A £250 course fee and £200 accommodation deposit (if residential) is required to secure your place. Details will be provided to you in your offer. Fees are billed termly in advance. Please see the Terms and Conditions for further information.

We may routinely increase our course fees from year to year for one-year courses and may review and change such course fees without notice.


Scholarships and bursaries are available, based on individual need.

If you are a UK/EU student you may be eligible to apply for a Student Loan (tuition fees and/or maintenance loans) from the Student Loans Company. 

Find out more about funding

Entry requirements

Degree or qualification at an equivalent level to the second year of undergraduate study (e.g. HND, FdA or DipHE), and an interest or experience in conservation and collections. Alternatively, accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) will be considered for those who have been out of formal education for some years and are over 21, who do not meet the general (minimum) entrance requirements, but who can demonstrate their capacity for degree-level work in other ways.

International students will require English language CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level B2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.

If you fulfil the entry requirements, you will be invited to visit the College for an interview with the programme tutor and another senior member of academic staff.

How to apply

If you only wish to apply to West Dean, please complete the application form below and email to [email protected]. If you are applying to more than one institution, please apply through UCAS. 

Please note that this course starts September 2025. Applications via UCAS open May 2024 and direct applications open October 2024.

Any questions?
Email [email protected]; call us on: (01243) 818 300 and select option 1, or read more about our Admissions processes.


I am interested in this course but don’t meet the academic entry requirements or have been out of formal education for a while. Can I still apply?

Accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) will be considered. In these cases, applicants would need to demonstrate their capacity for degree-level work through a portfolio of work, prior learning and an interest or experience in object conservation and cultural heritage.

What would you expect to see in a Conservation Care portfolio?

A portfolio should demonstrate your interest and any experience in conservation care and collections management. It can comprise of evidence of engagement via, project notes and photos, links to video evidence or blogs, journaling and reflections and any testimonials.

What do students go on to do after taking a Conservation Care and Management for Collections course?

Our alumni are employed in conservation posts such as Historic Royal Palaces, National Trust, English Heritage, and across the museum sector.



Shayne Rivers Collections Care Subject Leader at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Shayne Rivers MA FIIC

Research Skills and Cross-curriculum Practice

Shayne Rivers is an acknowledged world expert in the conservation of furniture and Asian lacquer. She has lectured on conservation in the USA, Australia, Japan, Europe and the UK, and has been involved in the education of the next generation of conservators throughout her professional career.

David Dorning Subject Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

David Dorning MA ACR FIIC

Subject Tutor, Conservation Science

David is a book and paper conservation specialist who has tutored more than a generation of book conservators since he began as a tutor in book conservation at West Dean College in 1988. He has taught science for conservators in the UK, USA and Europe, established the analytical laboratory at West Dean College in 2007 and has been the college's science tutor for 25 years.

Kate Jennings - Metals tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Kate Jennings

Subject Leader, Conservation Studies specialising in Metalwork

Kate's background includes practicing as a solicitor before making a career change to train as a blacksmith and specialist Metals Conservator. She earned an MA in Conservation Studies from West Dean, following which she founded a small business specializing in the conservation of forged and architectural metalwork.

School of Conservation West Dean

School of Conservation

Our School of Conservation offers a dynamic, internationally connected and respected learning environment where students benefit from the unique opportunity to study in a working historic house. Students enjoy access to well-equipped professional workshops, studios, and a state-of-the-art analytical laboratory.

School of Conservation