Student studying Master of Fine Art at West Dean College Credit Chris Ison

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Applications open
Duration: 2 academic years (36 weeks pa) full time course
School: Arts
Location: West Dean
Scholarships and bursaries: See available funding

The MFA (Master of Fine Art) at West Dean College is an advanced two-year full-time masters of fine art designed to further advance students' capacities in practical, theoretical and professional domains, with an emphasis on specialist studio practice. MFA students will establish and refine core concerns and ambitions, as well as subjecting the work to critical scrutiny and self-reflection. Interdisciplinary practices are encouraged and supported, as well as those focused on a single discipline such as Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Drawing, Tapestry and Textiles. You will benefit from sustained periods of studio-based activity, with dissertation requirements coming early in the second year. 

Learning environment

  • Large individual studio spaces
  • Excellent staff-to-student ratio with regular tutorial support
  • Specialised lectures, seminars and workshops with regular visiting lecturers and artists
  • Expert support from workshop technicians
  • Professional development - gallery visits and other external events
  • Contact with a regular series of professional Artists-in-Residence
  • An immersive environment with rich connections to art history, particularly Surrealism, through the legacy of College founder Edward James

You can expect

  • Support in consolidating studio practice to a high standard
  • Access to facilities, workshops and expertise for the fabrication of artworks relating to the individual student's ambitions.
  • Large individual studios and outdoor facilities make it possible to realise ambitious work
  • Opportunities for innovative approaches to studio practice so conceptual ideas can be tested and informed using selected media
  • To develop originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the Fine Art
  • Systematic understanding and critical awareness of current debates in contemporary art practice
  • To develop aptitude for professional practice, independent research or employment, including opportunities for public exhibition

MFA units include

  • Studio Work units run consistently throughout the MFA programme
  • Creative Research Strategies (18-weeks) - with access to the on-site Edward James Archive to develop new work and supporting research.
  • Art Research and Criticality - lecture series with support in research skills 
  • Professional Practice - supports you in preparations for the Summer Shows and include workshops dedicated to Artist Statements, documentation, profile building and curator-led critiques.

Interdisciplinary study

Students are encouraged to collaborate with other College departments, particularly the full-time programmes in the School of Conservation, making the most of the wide range of specialist knowledge, materials and equipment that is available.

Course structure

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

Course units

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

Unit VA MFA 1A

Creative Research Strategies

15 credits

Unit VA MFA 1B

Application of Philosophical Aesthetics

15 credits

Unit VA MFA 1C

Studio work

30 credits

Year 1 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)
Study block 3 Formative review Study block 4

Unit VA MFA 3A

Art Research and Criticality

20 credits

Unit VA MFA 3C

Studio work 2 (interim exhibition)

40 credits

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

Unit VA MFA 5A


20 credits

Unit VA MFA 5C

Studio work 3

40 credits

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

Unit VA MFA 7A

Professional Practice

15 credits

Unit VA MFA 7C

Studio work 4 (summer show)

45 credits


Contact hours


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

On the Master of Fine Art (MFA) you will have around 11-12 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 2 hours of lectures
  • 1 hour of seminars
  • 2 hours of one-to-one/group tutorials
  • 1-2 hours of critique sessions
  • 4 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

33% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 785 hours
Independent learning: 1615 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

Exhibition opportunities

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

As well as being encouraged to exhibit externally, both locally and nationally, during their studies, students have the unique opportunity to propose installations within West Dean House and West Dean Gardens. Project proposals are encouraged to reflect the rich heritage of West Dean and the legacy of College founder Edward James.

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.

Artist in Residence Programme

The Artist-in-Residence programme sees a series of professional artists living and working onsite, amongst Fine Art students. They enrich the creative learning environment by offering tutorial sessions with students as well as public presentations on the work produced during the residency and their wider practice.

School of Arts Residencies
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

The following qualifications will be considered for entry on to the MFA:

  • An Honours Degree or equivalent qualification in Fine Art or a related discipline
  • Relevant work experience in an arts-related field which demonstrates your ability to study at postgraduate level
  • Portfolio: including evidence of current practical work, sketchbooks, documentation, and evidence of critical writing
  • An appropriate level of engagement with current debates in contemporary arts and making is required
  • English language: CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) Level 2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.

How to create a portfolio

Do you need help creating a portfolio to apply for Master of 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

Applications for this course can be made by submitting a completed application form and emailing it to: [email protected].

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.

Rebecca Partridge - MFA Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Rebecca Partridge

Subject Tutor - Fine Art

Rebecca is an artist, writer and curator who has been exhibiting internationally since graduating from the Royal Academy Schools in 2007. While primarily a painter, her interests include cross-disciplinary approaches to landscape, contemporary Romanticism, synaesthesia and perception, with current curatorial research into the connections between contemporary painting and historical Land Art. She has been a lecturer at West Dean since 2012.  

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.