Press Release: From city to creativity; finance to fine art – time for a career change?

West Dean College aims for on-site teaching from September

There’s no denying that the past two months have been a life changer for many people whether it be financially and/or professionally. Rising unemployment and recession against a backdrop of wide-scale change and, for many, more time to think about what is truly important, can be the catalyst for a career-change. Those graduating into a flat market may also instead opt to pursue their Masters, preparing for a post-crisis world and side-stepping the immediate struggle to find a job.

One college helping career-changers and graduates alike is West Dean College of Arts and Conservation in West Sussex, with a Higher Education provision that spans Foundation degrees and diplomas as well as Master’s degrees. Its alumni are working worldwide with collections and museums as well across the creative industries as makers and artists. A partner of the University of Sussex, the College is also well connected across the creative and heritage sectors internationally.

Francine Norris, Director of Education at the College comments: “As a small college we’re focused on helping students to achieve their goals and we offer the entry paths and funding support that are attractive to those looking to change career. Class sizes are typically as few as ten students which means students receive a high level of tuition and are exceptionally well supported to achieve their potential. Right now, like most universities, teaching is continuing remotely but our students were, unusually in Higher Education, given the option of completing the academic year remotely or returning next academic year. We can offer this because we are relatively small and have been able to flex to accommodate the changing circumstances.”

The College’s Clocks and Horology department has attracted students who have transferred from different professions. Horology alumnus Dale Sardeson graduated with a MA in 2019, he was originally an accountant. He comments: “I soon grew bored with the office environment and I was itching to do something practical, to work with my hands. I had always had an academic tendency towards maths and the sciences, so clocks and horology was the perfect marriage of practical craftsmanship and maths and mechanical theory. After all, the clockmakers of history were often at the leading edge of the science of their day! Horology can also be a wonderful history teacher if you want it to be!”

Malcolm Archer, Clocks and Horology Subject Leader notes: “West Dean’s course is intensely practical with a high tutor to student ratio and appeals to those who are naturally practical and may have experience of micro engineering which links closely with watchmaking.”

David Edwards, a Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies student specialising in Furniture, is a career changer. He said: “After 20 years working as a management consultant (in London) and travelling a great deal with work, I decided to make a complete lifestyle change and pursue a career in an area that was as far away from consulting as possible! I had always had a strong interest in furniture and wanted to work more with my hands so re-training for furniture conservation and restoration was a good fit. As I started to speak to people in the conservation world it became more and more clear that West Dean has an outstanding reputation in this field, and I see my studies here as providing the best possible springboard into this new world for me.”  

West Dean is full of people who used to do other things and the Metals Department has some wonderful examples. We currently have students whose previous careers range from a professional prop maker to a thatcher, and applicants from the medical profession.

How do students make the switch? Last year, 60% of the College’s students had some form of funding support. To help make study possible, West Dean and a number of funders provide scholarships and bursaries. The final funding application deadline for those applying to study in September 2020 is August 1, and students need to first apply to the course they want to study.

See website for Degree and diploma study opportunities:

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Notes to Editors

  • West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was founded in 1971 by the poet and Surrealist patron, Edward James, recognised by BBC Arts as the ‘the greatest patron of art of the early 20th century’.
  • The College is part of The Edward James Foundation (Charity No. 1126084), also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.
  • All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.
  • West Dean College is situated on the A286, six miles north of Chichester and within easy access of Portsmouth, Guildford, Brighton and London.
  • The West Dean students are studying conservation or arts programmes, from Foundation degree to Masters. The College has an international reputation and is a full partner of the University of Sussex.

    For all media enquiries please contact Rachel Aked:
    Telephone: 07790 732448

    West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 OQZ


Conservation of Ceramics and Related Materials workshop
Conservation of Ceramics and Related Materials workshop
Conservation of Clocks student Dale Sardeson in the workshop
Conservation of Clocks student Dale Sardeson in the workshop
Furniture and Related Objects workshop
Furniture and Related Objects workshop