Angel Cake Student exhibition 2018, work by Jane McNair at West Dean College

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Applications open
Duration: 1 academic year (36 weeks pa) full time
School: Arts
Location: West Dean
Scholarships and bursaries: See available funding

The Graduate Diploma in Fine Art is a one-year interdisciplinary programme designed to provide a route into postgraduate study. As a concentrated form of an undergraduate degree, the programme gives graduates of other disciplines the opportunity to transfer existing skills to the study of Fine Arts. As you progress through the programme, you can work across disciplines or choose to specialise in areas such as Painting and Drawing, Sculpture, or Tapestry and Textile Art.

Studio Work units run continuously throughout the academic year as the core of the Graduate Diploma programme, informed and enhanced by additional theoretical and professional units.

A variety of materials-based workshops are undertaken in the first semester, focused by critical engagement with the Ronald Lee Archive, a unique archival resource of visual and material culture that promotes the production of new artworks for a 'pop-up' exhibition.

A series of lectures and seminars introduces Philosophical Aesthetics and supports the writing of a critical essay.

The second semester incorporates Contextual and Professional Research, helping students to situate their own practices in a historical and contemporary context. The year culminates in a Summer Show open to the public.

Learning environment

  • A stimulating and supportive learning environment in which to develop your creative practice
  • A specialised programme of lectures, seminars and workshops
  • Input from regular visiting lecturers and artists
  • Expert support for a dedicated team of workshop technicians
  • Professional development provision for gallery visits and other external events
  • Contact with a regular series of professional artists-in-residence based in the studios throughout the academic year
  • An immersive environment with rich connections to art history, particularly Surrealism, through the legacy of college founder Edward James

You can expect

  • Low student : tutor ratio
  • Dedicated individual studio space
  • Access to advanced facilities, workshops and expertise
  • Support in developing both interdisciplinary and specialist studio work
  • Support in developing critical thinking and contextual knowledge
  • Opportunities to display work in various contexts
  • Support for developing transferable skills such as self-management, communication, collaboration, IT and research skills
  • Increased independence and self-reliance applicable for further study, practice or employment

Course structure

Learn more about the course structure of each semester and the breakdown of study blocks. 

Course units

Semester 1 (18 weeks)
Study block 1 Formative review Study block 2

Unit VA G1B
Materials of the Artist
15 credits

Unit VA G1B
Introduction to Philosophical Aesthetics
15 credits

Unit VA G1C

Studio work 1
30 credits

Semester 2 (18 weeks)
Study block 3 Formative review Study block 4

Unit VA G3A

Contextual and Professional Research

20 credits

Unit VA G3C

Studio work 2 (summer show)

40 credits


Contact hours


You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical workshops, individual and group tutorials, critique sessions, oral and written presentations, external visits and self-directed research.

On the Graduate Diploma you typically have around 13-14 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 2 hours of lectures
  • 1-2 hours of seminars
  • 2 hours of one-to-one/group tutorials
  • 1 hour of critique sessions
  • 6 hours of practical workshops
  • 1 hour of external visits (on average)

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars, workshops or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-directed study. Typically, this will involve:

  • working in the studio
  • developing supporting material and research portfolios
  • undertaking research in the library
  • reading journal articles and books
  • working on specific unit assignments
  • preparing presentations and self-assessments.

Overall workload

Graduate Diploma: 40% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 480 hours
Independent learning: 720 hours

term dates
Ruth Glasheen. Hat Hill, 2021. Image © Barney Hindle Photography

Exhibition opportunities

Each year students stage a series of public exhibitions, including an annual fundraising exhibition and the celebrated Summer Shows that are held at the College and in London. Through these students develop skills in the requirements of exhibition management, such as production, installation and marketing.

West Dean Summer Show

The West Dean Summer Show offers an opportunity for students on our Graduate Diploma and MFA qualifications to showcase their talents in a diverse range of practices including sculpture, installation, print, painting, film, ceramics, and textiles.

Learn more

Artists in Residence Programme

The Artist-in-Residence programme sees a series of professional artists living and working onsite, amongst Visual Arts students. They offer tutorial sessions with students as well as public presentations on the work produced during the residency and their wider practice.

Artist in Residence
School of Art Credit Thom Atkinson.jpg

School of Arts

Explore and expand your work in a uniquely immersive environment with its own connections to art history. Our School of Arts students enjoy specialist studio spaces dedicated to painting and drawing, sculpture and tapestry and textile-based work as well as exceptional exhibition space.

School of Arts

Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for UK and international students

  • £4,160 per term (£12,480 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.

Find out more about funding

Entry Requirements

  • A qualification equivalent to a second year of successful undergraduate study e.g. HND, DipHE

  • A relevant Foundation Degree in Fine Art or related subject

  • Portfolio: presenting a concise overview of the development and current focus of your practice, including sketchbooks, journals and an example of written work

  • English language: CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) Level B2 or IELTS 6.5

How to create a portfolio

Do you need help creating a portfolio to apply for Graduate Diploma Fine Art? Read our portfolio advice to learn about the general requirements, what we look for in a good portfolio, and what it should reflect.

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. 

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:

"The high quality student experience and strength of student representation within the College."

"The changes to units so they draw on and make use of specific collections within the archive."

"The linking of theory and practice, and delivery of theory by studio technicians."


Dr David Stent, Fine Art tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

David Stent

Subject Leader - Fine Art

Dr David Stent is an artist, writer, curator and performer. His practice has drawn on various media, from drawing and painting to film, video, sonic and sculptural installation. He holds a PhD in Fine Art from the University of Reading, and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Philip Sanderson

Subject Tutor - Tapestry, Fine Art
Studio Leader - West Dean Tapestry Studio

Philip Sanderson is Leader of the Professional Tapestry Studio and a Subject Tutor on the MFA in Fine Art. He is also the Tutor for the Tapestry Foundation Diploma and a short course tutor. During his time at West Dean Philip has translated the work of a number of artists into large-scale tapestries including Marta Rogoyska, John Hubbard, Tracy Emin, and Eva Rothschild. 

Sarah Hughes Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Sarah Hughes

Programme Coordinator - BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft
Subject Tutor - Fine Art

Sarah Hughes is the Programme Coordinator for the BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft, and a subject tutor on our Fine Art programmes. Sarah, is an artist and composer with an interest in spatial practice.

George Charman teaching at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

George Charman

Subject Tutor - Fine Art & Art and Contemporary Craft

George Charman is an artist and lecturer based in London who teaches on the GD and MFA programmes at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. Charman's practice-led research focuses on embodied social knowledge, exploring connections between dialogic social experiences and physical sensation in modes of creative production/fabrication.

Jon Shaw

Subject Tutor - Fine Art

Jon K Shaw is a writer, editor and educator based in southeast London. He teaches in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London; City & Guilds of London Art School; and West Dean College of Arts and Conservation.