Who we are

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation is part of The Edward James Foundation, a registered charity which also comprises West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.

Vision

The Foundation's mission is to provide, through West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, the highest quality education in arts and conservation, and our vision is to be internationally recognised as a centre of excellence.

You can read our ten year vision (Vision 2027) here.

Through our work we aim:

To inspire creativity, champion traditional art and craft practices and advance the care of heritage objects.

Underpinning this is a commitment to:

  • Celebrate our heritage and Edward James' legacy to inspire and teach; using the house, archives and collection, gardens and estate.
  • Preserve an inspiring, creative and peaceful environment; for our students, visitors, guests and staff.
  • Be a great place to work where people share a common goal and feel respected and cared for; we listen, involve, communicate and develop.
  • Collaborate with partners who share our vision to enable each other to achieve our goals; including academic and cultural partners, donors, suppliers and clients.
  • Be resourceful and efficient in all areas to secure a sustainable future for the College; through stewardship, innovation, excellence and enterprise.
  • Be inclusive by ensuring we are welcoming to all; offering public access, bursaries and scholarships.

Whole Estate Plan

The Whole Estate Plan explains the context and history of West Dean Estate, it provides an audit of its assets and it also describes its current operation. Perhaps, most usefully though, the Plan enables a better understanding of the Estate's rich natural capital and how this might be conserved and developed in a sustainable and sensitive way. It seeks to do this with clarity and transparency, in order to help deliver the objectives of Vision 2027 while preserving and enhancing the special qualities of this part of the South Downs National Park for all who live, work, visit and learn here.

Read the Whole Estate Plan and more about the Estate here.

KLC School of Design

We’re delighted to announce we’re joining forces with KLC School of Design to mark a new era for specialist creative education. From August this year KLC’s interior and garden design courses will form a new School of Design, alongside our School of Arts and School of Conservation.

KLC Ltd will join The Edward James Foundation in July this year, allowing West Dean College of Arts and Conservation and KLC School of Design to combine operations from August 2021. The move will bring together two of the most prestigious and well established providers of specialist creative education in the UK.

Read more

Under the management of West Dean College, the larger, combined institution aims to position itself as the UK’s pre-eminent College of Art, Design and Conservation, internationally recognised for excellence and creative innovation. KLC’s portfolio of interior and garden design courses will form a new School of Design as part of the larger West Dean College, which currently has a School of Conservation and a School of Arts. West Dean College’s courses include buildings, materials and objects conservation as well as fine art, creative writing and contemporary craft.

KLC’s London studios in the prestigious Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and West Dean College’s idyllic Grade II listed rural campus in the stunning South Downs will continue operations for the foreseeable future. The two campuses will offer staff and students unprecedented opportunities for exchange and crossover, allowing them to enjoy the best of both a vibrant city setting and an inspirational countryside retreat.

Students will also be offered greater choice in their studies going forward, with a wider range of courses in complementary subjects. The focus will remain firmly on fostering creative excellence and innovation, providing the ideal setting for students to acquire and apply the skills needed for successful careers in the arts, conservation and design industries.

The Principals and Chief Executives from West Dean College and KLC have worked closely together on the plans and both institutions are fully committed to ensuring a smooth transition for all students, faculty, and staff.

Alexander Barron, Chief Executive of West Dean College said:
“West Dean College is 50 years old this year and KLC is 40. Important milestones for two institutions that share a rich and successful history providing high quality, specialist education in arts, conservation and design.

“We have an incredible opportunity in bringing our two renowned and respected organisations together. Combining our strengths, we will become stronger and more successful than the sum of our parts, forging a truly exciting new era for specialist creative and craft education in the UK and internationally.”

Jenny Gibbs OBE, Principal of KLC School of Design said: “At KLC we have always believed in the benefits of collaboration. We share the values and ethos of West Dean College and are hugely excited about the opportunities our combined programmes in art, design and conservation will bring to current students and future students. As one institution we will be in a better position to meet the fast-changing needs of students, the industries we serve and the rapidly changing world beyond.”

"Bringing our two renowned institutions together is a win-win, not just for the students and staff of West Dean College and KLC School of Design but for the future of specialist creative practice-based education in the UK.” said Francine Norris, Principal of West Dean College. "The potential for future course development, collaborations and interdisciplinary working is really exciting.”

Board of Trustees

The Edward James Foundation which runs West Dean College of Arts and Conservation and Gardens was established in 1964. It is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales. Company no. 6689362 and Charity registration no. 1126084.

The members of the Board of Trustees are:

Professor Paul O'Prey CBE, Chairman

Professor O'Prey is former Vice-Chancellor of Roehampton University, which went from strength to strength under his leadership. In his previous role as Director of Academic Affairs at the University of Bristol, he played a major part in the development and implementation of academic strategy in both research and education.

Professor O'Prey read English Language and Literature at Keble College, Oxford and gained his PhD from Bristol. His publications include several books and articles on writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century, notably Graham Greene and Robert Graves and his circle, as well as translations of Spanish literature. Professor O'Prey joined the Board of Trustees in 2015.

Caroline Griffith

Caroline moved to the UK from Australia when she married, and read for the Bar at the Inner Temple as a mature student. For many years she sat as a magistrate working in the adult and family courts. She has been a Governor for both secondary and tertiary education boards and has a lifelong interest in art and the creative crafts. Caroline Griffith became a Trustee in 2014.

Professor Nigel Llewellyn PhD FSA

Nigel Llewellyn is an expert in Art History and taught at the University of Sussex for 25 years, during which time he also served as Dean and Pro-Vice-Chancellor. This was followed by time at the Tate as Head of Research, leading on research projects across all four Tate sites.

Nigel is a published author of several books, articles and scholarly essays. He is involved with several other organisations including the Association of Art Historians and the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Francis Plowden FCA

Francis Plowden is a chartered accountant and was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers until 2000. Since then he has been a Board member in the private, public and voluntary sectors, including eight years as Chairman of the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College. He is a Trustee of the Anna Plowden Trust, which promotes skills in and awareness of conservation of the moveable heritage. He has also been Chairman of the National Council for Palliative Care, a Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission and a Board member of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, as well Boards in the private sector. Francis Plowden became a Trustee in 2014.

Mike McCart

Director of Development and Policy at Southbank Centre, whose cultural offering exemplifies London's global relationships, attracting world-class artists and 10 million visitors to its summer festivals programme alone.

David Seddon

David is from an Anglo American family and trained as an Occupational Psychologist, spending much of his career working in New York, San Francisco and Tampa.

With a keen interest in hand tools and building David has in recent years built a barn from green oak and a clapboard deck house. He also restored a medieval house in Chichester, a project which was filmed by The Discovery Channel and won a Heritage Award from the City Council.

David who is a fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants, joined the Board as Trustee in 2013. He is also a Trustee of Chichester Festival Theatre.

Martin Ashley MVO RIBA

Martin is an architect in private practice specialising in historic building conservation. Based in Twickenham, Martin's Practice of architects and surveyors assists clients and occupiers in the conservation and management of significant historic building estates, advising and enabling the repair, adaption, and development of historic properties to serve the ongoing needs of client organisations in the 21st century. Martin and his Practice are privileged to have worked over many years with The Royal Household, The Crown Estate, Royal Parks Agency, Historic Royal Palaces, The English Heritage Trust, and City of London Corporation amongst other government and local government agencies and charitable trusts.

Martin Ashley is Surveyor of the Fabric to the Queen's Free Chapel of St George in Windsor Castle, to the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich, and to St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London. Martin is a member of Historic England Conservation Committee, and an active Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Masons.

Alison Richmond ACR FIIC

Alison Richmond was formerly the CEO of Icon (the Institute of Conservation) where she transformed the organisation into the leading membership body and voice for conservation of cultural heritage in the UK. An Accredited Conservator-Restorer (ACR), she is also a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation (FIIC). Alison was a Senior Conservator at the V&A for almost two decades.

Passionate about the future of conservation, she aims to help overcome the financial challenges she sees for people looking for a career in the conservation sector. Alison joined the Board as Trustee in December 2018.

Digest of The Edward James Foundation Ltd Board Actions and Decisions

Executive Management

The Foundation is run by a senior management team led by the Chief Executive. Together they take personal responsibility for every aspect of the smooth day-to-day running of the organisation. This includes teaching and research, student and staff welfare, financial management, hospitality, marketing and fundraising.

Alexander Barron ACA, Chief Executive

Alex was appointed Chief Executive in July 2015, having worked with or for the Foundation for over 10 years, most recently as Director of Finance & Enterprise. He is a Chartered Accountant.

Francine Norris BA (Hons) MA FRSA, Principal and Deputy Chief Executive

Francine is a designer and academic with extensive experience of higher education both as a teacher and at senior management level. She is responsible for the College including all programmes of study, short courses, research, library and collections, student support and academic quality assurance.

Ian Graham, Director of Estates

Ian ensures all our students and visitors are well cared for in every aspect of their visit and is responsible for the care and upkeep of our historic buildings and gardens.

Diversity and Anti-Racism

We passionately believe that every arts education organisation should ensure that its work draws on and reflects the full range of backgrounds and perspectives to be found in our society. A diversity of voices, perspectives and experiences, enriches creative practice and is vital in a flourishing, inclusive arts community.

To achieve this at West Dean College, we must exercise strong leadership with a strategy and a workforce that reflects this diversity. We must reinforce our commitment to improving and expanding access and participation in the creative and applied arts, recognising that opportunity does not readily exist for everyone.

Read our full Diversity and Anti-Racism Statement

Research

Across the School of Arts and School of Conservation, the role of research is essential in underpinning the College's academic ambitions, helping West Dean to be at the forefront of the specialisms it supports, positively impacting it as a teaching and learning environment. Research projects are key to establishing new and innovative practices, emphasising the importance of skills-based making and conservation, as well as demonstrating the value and scope of interdisciplinary collaboration. Research at West Dean College not only benefits students, staff and specialist audiences but also wider academic communities and the public.

The College is privileged to be on a site of historic significance, both in relation to the heritage of the West Dean Estate and its more recent associations with the life and work of its founder Edward James.

You can find out about the specific research groups here.

Help preserve our future

West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

Find out how you can help support us