The MA Conservation Studies equips you with the high level specialist skills sought by the conservation sector. For students of English, History, Archaeology and varied Humanities disciplines Conservation offers an exciting career.
This rigorous and highly respected programme draws on an extensive sector network, nationally and internationally, including industry bodies such as Icon. The Masters in Conservation Studies is the global industry standard for conservation, and our alumni work in many of the most prestigious museums, archives, libraries and private practices across the world.
The course focuses on research through practice. You will draw on theoretical, scientific, and analytical study of artefacts and materials, and analyse the context and practice of conservation. MA Conservation Studies students deliver a major final research project.
Elements of interdisciplinary work are involved, but you will choose from one of the specialisms below:
All disciplines are accessible from both humanities and science study backgrounds.
You can expect
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.
Areas of study in the first two semesters include further development of practical skills through supervised work on objects with complex treatment requirements, incorporation of scientific analysis into conservation projects to inform treatment decisions and a six week work placement to broaden practical experience, build contacts and gain transferable skills. Research skills are taught in the first semester in preparation for final research project development during the second semester. The third semester is devoted solely to the student’s final research project.
Research methods of conservation
This unit introduces a range of research methods and tools appropriate to an advanced level of study in conservation. It is designed to enable the identification of research questions and methods appropriate to the development of an MA research project.
At the start of the year, Academic Research and Writing Skills sessions will introduce students to the Library’s research resources (catalogues, information retrieval, online databases and archives) as well as appropriate academic conventions for citing and referencing (Harvard).
Through a series of lectures, seminars and workshops, a range of scientific, social scientific and humanities based research skills will be explored and visiting lecturers will present on their areas of research. Further lectures and seminars will investigate the role of the conservator in diverse contexts and fields of practice, and contemporary concerns and debates in conservation. This will lead students towards identifying research opportunities within their practice as it develops through MA1A. Possible research questions are then presented and discussed with peers and tutors with a view to: assessing their purpose and viability, identifying source material and primary research methods, possible constraints and ethical issues, methods of analysis, evaluation and presentation. Students are expected to review a range of research skills to provide them with a broad understanding on which to develop the methodology for their final selected research question.
In addition, through individual and group exercises, students will study, critically evaluate and discuss examples of writing to a publication standard in preparation for the written element of their final research project. This will comprise lectures and seminars, theoretical exercises, peer group discussions and independent study leading to a review of research methodologies, development of a final research question, methodology and indicative reading list with an oral presentation of the research question to an audience of peers.
|Semester 1 (18 weeks)|
|Study block 1 (12 weeks)|
Extending Practice (50 credits)
Conservation Science Analysis (10 credits)
Research studies and project design (10 credits)
|STAGE ASSESSMENT (FEB)|
|Semester 2 (14 weeks)|
|Study block 3 (6 weeks)|
Professional Practice (35 credits)
Work placement element
|Study block 4 (8 weeks)|
Professional Practice (cont.) (35 credits)
Project Development (15 credits)
|Semester 3 (14 weeks)|
|Study block 5|
Project Realisation (60 credits)
On the MA Conservation Studies you will typically have around 19-20 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:
For semester 2, outside of the work placement, you will continue to have full workshop access and have 10 contact hours per week in the above areas.
For semester 3 you will continue to have full workshop access and have approximately 1 hour tutorial time per week.
When not attending lectures, seminars and workshops or other timetabled sessions, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. 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 and undertaking and writing up your final research project.
Total scheduled teaching and learning: 600 hours
Independent learning: 1200 hours
In semester 1, 41% of your time will be spent in scheduled learning activities or under supervision.
In semester 2, 25% of your time will be spent in supervised activities.
In semester 3, you will be expected to work independently with tutorial support.
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
Progression from the Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies to Masters requires successful completion of the graduate programme with a good pass.
Applicants with conservation experience and scientific knowledge equivalent to the Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies may enter directly on to the Masters programme, in which case an upper 2nd class or above UK Honours degree in an appropriate subject or a non-UK equivalent is required. 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 practical skills or evidence of practical interests and research and writing abilities commensurate with BA level.
International students will require English language CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) Level B2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.
The College’s extensive links with museums, conservators and professional bodies in the heritage sector in the UK, EU and internationally, opens up an impressive range of opportunities for the six week work placements that MA Conservation Studies students typically undertake.
Recent placement host institutions include:
From the MA, alumni work with public and private collections and include professional conservators in high profile museums and libraries nationally and internationally. Some pursue a career path into collections care, or work as independent conservators, advisors or tutors. Alumni have gone on to work at:
Image: Tabea Rude Aluma, Photo Credit Michael Goldrei. Tabea is the Dynamic Objects Conservator at the Wien Museum, (Vienna Clock Museum, Austria) and looks after a collection of around 4,000 clocks.
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 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.
If you are a UK student and plan to take a postgraduate Master's course you may be able to get a postgraduate loan of up to £12,167 to help with course fees and living costs. See www.gov.uk/funding-for-postgraduate-study
Student scholarships and bursaries
Scholarships and bursaries are available from £500 to £10,000.
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."
Students on the MA Conservation Studies choose one of the following pathways to specialise in when they apply:
To be eligible to study on the Masters programme, you need to have a good honours degree PLUS experience in the relevant conservation specialism. Using Metals as an example, we would expect MA applicants to be familiar with Metals and have worked in that specialised area for a few years. You would be expected to demonstrate familiarity and experience with Metals in your application and supporting portfolio. If you don’t have this experience, we would recommend you apply for the Graduate Diploma.
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 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 Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects)
Dale Sardeson is a subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects), professional clockmaker and conservator based in West Sussex.
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 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.