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.
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.
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.
|Semester 1 (18 weeks)|
|Study block 1 (12 weeks)||Christmas vacation||Study block 2 (6 weeks)|
Introducing Professional Practice (40 credits)
Introducing Conservation Science (10 credits)
Contextual and Professional Studies 1 (10 credits)
|Semester 2 (18 weeks)|
|Study block 3 (6 weeks)||Easter vacation||Study block 4 (12 weeks)|
Developing Professional Practice (10 credits)
Research Through Practice (30 credits)
Conservation Science: Development and Applications (10 credits)
Contextual and Professional Studies 2 (10 credits)
On the Graduate Diploma, you typically have around 24 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:
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:
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
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.
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:
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.
Course fees are the same for the UK and international students
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.
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.
If you only wish to apply to West Dean, please contact [email protected] for an application form. If you are applying for more than one institution, please apply through UCAS using the links below.
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."
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.
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.
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).
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.
By Elizabeth Wells, MA Conservation Studies student, specialising in Ceramics and Related Materials
After complex decision-making surrounding the treatment of an incredible 16th Century Maiolica dish from The Russell-Cotes Museum, the journey from dull, broken ceramic to vibrant, finished object wasn’t quite over...
By Chris Arrowsmith, Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies student, specialising in Metalwork
This spring term the metals conservation students were given a whole suit of armour to play with. It turned out to be a major undertaking over three months, but one challenge in particular interested me – how on earth to mount a heavy, free-standing suit of armour? &nbs...
Each year, students on the MA Conservation Studies programmes undertake a six-week work placement in industry as part of their studies. The College’s extensive links with museums, conservators and professional bodies in the heritage sector across the UK, EU and internationally, opens up an impressive range of opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge in a 'real-world' sett...
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
The contemplative and the intellectual dimension: a mix that helps us to live in harmony with ourselves and with the surrounding world. The ancient Romans were wise!
For the Romans the garden was initially tied to the peasant society, t...
By Elizabeth Wells, MA Conservation Studies student, specialising in Ceramics and Related Materials
Introducing Jack Durling, a new short course tutor at West Dean for 2023. Specialising in creating ceramic animal sculptures, Jack seeks to express his love of animals in his work and through his workshops. Here, he tells us more about his practice, current work, inspirations and where it all began... How did you get started with making ceramic animal sculptures? W...
Head of School of Conservation
Elizabeth Neville has over thirty years' experience as a book conservator, interspersed with teaching and supervising on the Graduate Diploma in Books and Library Materials and MA Conservation Studies courses at West Dean.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects)
Dale Sardeson is a subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects), professional clockmaker and conservator based in West Sussex.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.