Conservation Studies

Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies

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Applications open
Duration: One academic year (36 weeks) full time
School: Conservation
Location: West Dean
Scholarships and bursaries: See available funding

The Graduate Diploma (Level 6) is the start of your transition into Conservation Studies. The Graduate Diploma provides the theoretical and practical knowledge and experience necessary to start your career as a conservator and to begin to develop an area of specialisation.

The programme is designed to be accessible from both the humanities and science study backgrounds. Students choose one of the pathway specialisms below, yet elements of interdisciplinary work are still involved. 

Subject specialisms

  • Books and Library Materials
    Books and Library Materials is the largest specialism in the material conservation sector, and this programme has a high success rate with alumni going on to work in libraries and archives worldwide. 
  • Ceramics and Related Materials
    Specialise in Ceramics and Related Materials and work with a range of exciting objects from historical and private collections, from archaeological finds to decorative arts objects. 
  • Furniture and Related Objects
    Enhance your employment prospects and work towards becoming a professional furniture conservator or craftsperson. Students work on a range of live projects in a stimulating workshop environment.
  • Horology, Clocks and Related Objects
    Studying Clocks and related dynamic objects allow you to develop the skills and competences to work towards becoming a professional horologist or horological conservator. Students work on clock conservation, restoration and repair.
  • Metalwork
    Studying Metalwork opens up a range of possibilities for you as you work towards becoming a professional craftsperson or metalwork conservator. Students have access to live projects and exceptional facilities.

Kirsten Ramsay of the BBC's The Repair Shop studied Conservation of Ceramics between 1989-1991 and shares her experience and memories of studying at West Dean. 

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Well-equipped workshops
  • Workshop access
  • Individual workbench for each student
  • Visiting lecturers and group visits to collections, studios and workshops
  • Interdisciplinary environment
  • Teaches students to understand and apply Icon's Professional Standards in conservation visits to collections

Course structure

You will be introduced to conservation documentation, conservation technique and application, materials science and how history and context informs decision-making in conservation. As the year progresses, you will undertake more complex conservation projects and by the end of the course you will have acquired a repertoire of conservation treatments and gained an understanding and appreciation of the history and cultural context of objects in your chosen pathway.

The content of this programme has been developed in line with The Institute of Conservation’s Professional Standards in Conservation and the UK Quality Code for Higher Education.

Course features

Unique features

  • The has a large and diverse collection comprising objects from all disciplines. The collections are used by students to apply their knowledge to real-life problems. 
  • The immersive environment encourages joint learning and interdisciplinary practice.
  • Regular visiting lecturers and part time tutors from public and private institutions.
  • Field trips to conservation studios, historic sites and exhibitions.
  • The programme has a low student to staff ratio.
  • The 36 week programme has workshop access 8.30am – 10pm, seven days a week which is exceptional in a higher education environment.

Contextual and professional studies

Students across all pathways study together to examine the common foundations of historical, cultural and professional knowledge that are relevant to understanding contemporary conservation practice. Content is delivered through a mix of lectures, recommended reading, seminars and visits.

Themes explored in the first semester include the role of the conservator, ethics and conservation standards, the value of craft, sustainability and the significance of heritage to different cultures. The driver for this unit of study is to help students situate the specific conservation projects they are working on in their specialist pathways within a wider cultural and professional context. Seminar sessions provide an opportunity for students to share their own projects and discuss the ethical dilemmas and complexities around decision making with their peers. Exercises and assignments are designed to introduce research skills and promote critical analysis and reflection.

For the second semester the focus moves to the collection, its context and the associated complexities of decision-making. Visiting lecturers and visits will introduce students to a range of preservation strategies in different organisations. Students will consider how the decision-making for the treatment of objects they work on can be influenced by the context of the collection they are part of or the institutional policies or strategies of their custodians. Students are asked to present case studies on the challenges of collections care in different situations and exercises and assignments are designed to continue the development of research skills, critical analysis and reflection.

These units are complimented by the bi-annual cross school trip.

Course units

Semester 1 (18 weeks)
Study block 1 (12 weeks) Christmas vacation Study block 2 (6 weeks)

Unit G1A

Introducing Professional Practice (40 credits)

Unit G1B

Introducing Conservation Science (10 credits)

Unit G1C

Contextual and Professional Studies 1 (10 credits)

Semester 2 (18 weeks)
Study block 3 (6 weeks) Easter vacation Study block 4 (12 weeks)

Unit G2A

Developing Professional Practice (10 credits)


Unit G3A

Research Through Practice (30 credits)

Unit G2B

Conservation Science: Development and Applications (10 credits)

Unit G2C

Contextual and Professional Studies 2 (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 workshop practicals
  • 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: 720 hours
Independent learning: 480 hours

International study trips

The College continues to monitor travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with regards to any international travel. At this time, all international travel which includes study trips will be subject to agreement by the College.

term dates


On completion of the Graduate Diploma, many students go on to study the MA Conservation Studies which includes a six-week work placement to broaden practical experience, build contacts and gain transferable skills. Others pursue entry-level positions in the heritage sector. The College’s extensive links with museums, conservators and professional bodies in the heritage sector open up an impressive range of work placement opportunities.

Graduates have had placements at, or gone on to work with:

  • Amsterdam City Archives
  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Bodleian Library
  • Brighton Pavilion
  • British Museum
  • Fishbourne Roman Palace
  • Heritage Blacksmith Partnership
  • Imperial War Museum,
  • Lambeth Palace Library
  • Leiden University Library
  • Library of Congress
  • Maritime Museum Rotterdam
  • National Museum of American History
  • Notarial Archives
  • Malta
  • Oxford Conservation Consortium
  • Richard Rogers Conservation
  • Royal Collection Trust
  • Royal Museums Greenwich
  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History
  • Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A),
  • Yale University Library.
Read more in our interviews with alumni
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

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 from £500 to £10,000.

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 object conservation and cultural heritage. 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 and undertake a practical test if applicable.

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 using the links. 

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Books and Library Materials

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Ceramics

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Clocks

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Furniture and Related Objects

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Metalwork

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

University of Sussex Logo


Commendations from the University of Sussex include:

"This re-validation further builds on the success of the courses, which have been refined over a number of years to produce excellent results."

"The professional networking opportunities provided through external collaborations and the opportunities for students to disseminate their work to an external audience."

"The approach to fostering a collaborative, creative student community in line with Edward James’ vision for the College."


Can I study a mixture of the Conservation specialisms on this course?

Students on the Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies choose one of the following pathways to specialise in when they apply: Books and Library Materials, Ceramics and Related Materials, Clocks and Related Objects, Furniture and Related Objects, Metalwork.

I am interested in Conservation 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 Studies portfolio?

A portfolio should demonstrate your interest and experience in conservation and your chosen specialism. It can comprise sketches, photos, video evidence of you working in a conservation environment with your hands using materials such as Books, Metals, Furniture (relevant to your chosen specialism). Read our portfolio advice to learn about the general requirements, what we look for in a good portfolio, and what it should reflect.

What is involved in the practical test?

You are asked to complete a task using workshop tools so we can see that you have the right level of mental agility and manual dexterity to undertake the practical elements of the course. Assessments take place onsite at the College workshops or remotely when it is not possible to come into the College.


Lorna Calcutt Ceramics Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Lorna Calcutt MA ACR

Programme Coordinator and Subject Leader for Ceramics (and Related Materials)

Lorna has been a tutor then Subject Leader at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation for 16 years and prior to that was employed as a conservator in national institutions and in the private sector.

Malcom Archer Horology Subject Leader at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Malcolm Archer FBHI

Subject Leader, Clocks (and Related Objects)

Malcolm's extensive experience in private practice, as well as the heritage sector/museums, lies behind his in-depth understanding of the profession. He brings a comprehensive knowledge of traditional craft skills, theory and contextual history. He also has an interest in new and innovative ways of applying conservation to mechanical objects.

Karen Vidler FIIC

Subject Leader Books and Library Materials

Karen Vidler FIIC is a book and paper conservator and bookbinder with over 25 years’ experience working as a conservator and bookbinder in the United Kingdom and Australia. She has worked at The National Archives, V&A Museum and the Leather Conservation Centre.

Maudie Casserly

Maudie Casserly MA

Subject Tutor, Books and Library materials

Maudie is a book and paper conservator and bookbinder. Having worked a various institutions and companies over the years, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and The National Archives, Maudie now works for herself, taking on commissions from museums, libraries, collections and private individuals. In additional to practical conservation and binding, Maudie also teaches a range of online classes in bookbinding  to students all over the world.

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.

Tim Hughes, clocks tutor at West Dean College

Tim Hughes

Subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects)

Tim Hughes MBHI, clock maker, trained at West Dean College and works as a clockmaker and scientific instrument restorer, and as external consultant at Bellmans Auctioneers. He has received several awards, including the Trustees' Prize while at West Dean College and a QEST Scholarship. 

Daniel Pateman specialist teacher in furniture design and craft at West Dean College

Daniel Pateman

Subject Leader, Furniture (and Related objects)

Daniel designs and makes furniture to commission inspired by the principles of the arts and crafts movement which had a profound influence whilst serving his apprenticeship at the Edward Barnsley Workshop in Hampshire. He has an affinity for using hand tools and how they creatively contribute to the making process.

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.

Dale Sardeson, Tutor at West Dean College

Dale Sardeson

Subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects)

Dale Sardeson is a subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects), professional clockmaker and conservator based in West Sussex. 

Jasmina Vučković, ceramics tutor at West Dean College

Jasmina Vučković MA ACR

Subject Tutor, Ceramics (and Related Materials)

Jasmina Vuckovic is Subject Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. She has been a visiting lecturer at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation prior to becoming a subject tutor in 2018. Jasmina is a member of ICOM and accredited member of Icon.

Anna Guy in the Science Lab at West Dean College

Anna Guy

Conservation Science Laboratory Tutor

Anna studied organic chemistry in Italy and her interest in academic research brought her to the UK. Her passion for research and art brought her to West Dean College, a very special and unique place where applied science meets cultural heritage.

Deborah Lee

Deborah Lee is a visiting lecturer at West Dean and freelance Metals Conservator, specialising in Arms and Armour.

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.

Jonathan Farley, books tutor at West Dean College

Jonathan Farley MA ACR

Subject Tutor, Books and Library Materials

Jonathan is a Library and Archives Conservator with over 40 years experience. Jonathan has worked for various institutions such as the National Archive, Hampshire Record Office and The University of Hull. Jonathan is an accredited member of ICON (the Institute for Conservation).

Phil Lyons, Subject Tutor for furniture courses at West Dean

Phil Lyons BA BAFRA

Subject Tutor

Phil is a BAFRA accredited conservator/restorer based in Buckinghamshire. He has twenty years experience in private practice running a small business providing a professional conservation/restoration service. 

Leszek Knyrek, Books tutor at West Dean College

Leszek Knyrek

Subject Tutor Books and Library Materials

Leszek gained his Diploma in Bookbinding in 1997 and has been a Master bookbinder for the last 25 years. More recently he became a qualified book conservator. He has been in private practice in London and Poland as both a bookbinder and more recently book conservator.