Press Release: How to fund your postgraduate degree and minimise debt - students’ top tips

"I advise any student not to be put off by fees and the concerns about incurring graduate debt as it is all possible," says Fons Vogel who is studying Musical Instrument Making at West Dean College. Students come to West Dean College from all over the world, attracted by its international reputation for teaching Conservation of historic objects and Creative Arts in a unique environment with its connections to the Surrealist Movement. The college offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. For many students support with funding makes it possible to pursue postgraduate study whilst protecting them from increased debt. The college's Masters Degrees and Postgraduate Diplomas are awarded by the University of Sussex and student-to-staff ratios typically average 8:1 allowing an unusually high level of tuition.

"Funding made studying at West Dean possible for me and it has been totally worth it. I applied for bursaries in Holland, then, in my second year to The Edward James Foundation, the charitable trust that runs West Dean College, and other private foundations in the UK", says Fons. "The level of contact time is higher here which is why I and many students from Europe come to study at the College. We're making in an authentic way, using hand tools, learning about materials, looking at original instruments and building a wide knowledge. What I most enjoy is the focus on making and all day workshop access. We're all interested in guitars and enjoy the same music, so the workshop is a great environment."

Fons' Top Tips for applying for funding

  • Make contact with the funder before submitting your application letter to check their requirements, even if the guidelines are published on the web site. Personal contact is a good way to begin and people remember you.
  • Make your letter count; it's all they have to judge your application. It's very important to be clear about your aspirations. Describe how you hope to contribute to society in the long term through definite plans for your studies and future career.
  • Apply to as many funders as possible. When you secure your first funding include this in other applications, mentioning how much you have secured so far and how much you still need to raise, and how you hope to do this.
  • Demonstrate your commitment and motivation. Fons completed three internships with well known musical shops and worked in the furniture making industry in Holland, and had saved some money towards his studies. If you have managed to accumulate some savings make this clear in your applications to show how you are doing your part, and not simply relying on funders.
  • Don't be complacent. There is no guarantee that your first year funds will continue in your subsequent years as rules can change and funding withdrawn. Make sure you keep on top of your finances and start applying for second-year funding as soon as possible. It is better to have too many offers than not enough.
  • Get your application in on time. Even better, get your applications in early in the year - before funds run out!

Before coming to West Dean Victoria Bullard-Smith majored in History of Art for her first degree and wondered whether this apparent change in direction would count against her when applying for funding to study Metalwork Conservation.

"I came to a college open day and spoke to the Admissions Team who were really helpful about funding. In addition to the bigger funders they also suggested some local organisations that I wasn't aware of. Securing funding in the arts and heritage industry is a challenge but my top tip is to use the resources on offer at your chosen college as they are the specialists. They want you to study with them so will be supportive of your efforts," says Victoria. "I was very fortunate to have a small inheritance from my grandmother for a deposit on a new home but I was prepared to use this to fund my postgraduate studies and mentioned this in my applications. I am so pleased that I didn't need to dip into my savings to become qualified and pursue my career".

Victoria was awarded The Sussex Scholarship which is open to prospective Graduate or Postgraduate students living in West Sussex. Applicants on any of West Dean's conservation programmes (Books, Ceramics, Clocks, Furniture or Metalwork) are eligible to apply for the two scholarships which each cover the full tuition fees for a year.

In addition to the college's MA Conservation Studies and MFA programmes is a new Foundation Degree in Historic Craft Practices, a Graduate Diploma specialising in books, clocks, ceramics, furniture or metalwork and a part time MA Collections Care and Conservation Management* and part time MA Creative Writing and Publishing. Courses are validated by the University of Sussex.

College facilities include a specialist conservation and arts library and dedicated professional workshops. Students have access to the School of Conservation's Analytical Laboratory where they can undertake technical analysis alongside their practical and academic work.

West Dean College offers a number of scholarships and bursaries from The Edward James Foundation and thanks to the generous support of other funders who share its passion for creative arts and conservation. The college welcomes funding applications from prospective students from all walks of life and the deadline for applications for 2016/17 is 5pm on 1 April 2016.

Open Day

The next Student Open Day on Saturday 6 February is an opportunity to see conservation in action behind the scenes in the School of Conservation and to explore the studios of the School of Creative Arts. For more information and to register call +44 (0)1243 818291 or email To view the digital prospectus visit View a video of the Student Open Day here.

*Subject to validation


Notes to editors

  • West Dean College has seen an increase of more than 20% in student intake in the last two years.
  • West Dean College is part of The Edward James Foundation, a charitable trust also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and the West Dean Tapestry Studio. Charity No. 1126084.
  • To find out more about how to support the next generation of artists, makers and conservation experts contact the Development Team on +44 (0)1243 818285.
  • All photography is copyright free 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.

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Media Contact Information

For further information, high-resolution digital images of filming opportunities, please contact

Irene Caswell, Senior Media Relations Officer, +44 (0)1243 818301


West Dean College, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 OQZ