Conservation of Books and Library Materials

Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies, specialising in Books and Library Materials

Duration: 1 academic year (36 weeks) full time
​Application deadline for equal consideration: 15 January 2020

Register now for Open Day on Friday 6 December
Find out more about funding opportunities

The Graduate Diploma provides the theoretical and practical knowledge and experience necessary to start your career as a conservator and to begin to develop an area of specialisation. The programme is designed to be accessible from both the humanities and science study backgrounds and has an international reputation for developing book conservation skills.

Learn how to assess and record the condition of books to produce a complete record of work. Develop a repertoire of conservation treatments for books ranging from simple enclosure, to repair and reinstatement of the parts.

You can expect

  • To develop excellent practical skills
  • To study the history of papermaking, materials science, storage and environmental issues, leather and image materials
  • To perform historical research and interpretation of the objects you work on
  • To work with materials from library and archive collections

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Well-equipped workshops
  • Workshop access 8.30am-10pm, 7 days a week
  • Individual work bench for each student
  • Visiting lecturers and group visits to collections, studios and workshops
  • Interdisciplinary environment
  • Teaches students to understand and apply Icon's Professional Standards in Conservation visits to collections

How to apply

If you would like to apply for this course, please do so through UCAS by 15 January 2020.

If you would like further information please contact our admissions team. Email or call +44 (0)1243 818 291.

Apply through UCAS


You will work in a purpose-built space for book conservation with two workshops as well as a bindery with individual student work benches and a demonstration bench. The bindery is fully equipped with sewing and forwarding equipment, board chopper, light boxes, finishing room and science lab. Students each have their own benches with storage and can access the studio from 8.30am to 10pm, allowing you to take full advantage of your time at West Dean College. You will also have access to facilities shared with other departments, including:

The on-site Art and Conservation Library puts thousands of specialist books and journals within your reach and you can access specialist databases in the IT suite.

Find out more about the facilities

Contact Hours


On the Graduate Diploma you typically have around 24 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 6 hours of lectures or demonstrations
  • 1 hour of seminars and peer to peer presentations
  • 14 hours of supervised workshop practicals
  • 2 hours of external trips and visits (on average)
  • 1 hour of one-to-one meetings/tutorials

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars and workshop or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study for approximately 13-14 hours per week. 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

Overall workload

Graduate Diploma: 60% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 720 hours
Independent learning: 480 hours

Programme structure

Semester 1 (18 weeks)
Study block 1 (12 weeks) Christmas vacation Study block 2 (6 weeks)

Unit G1A

Introducing Professional Practice (40 credits)

Unit G1B

Introducing Conservation Science (10 credits)

Unit G1C

Contextual and Professional Studies 1 (10 credits)

Semester 2 (18 weeks)
Study block 3 (6 weeks) Easter vacation Study block 4 (12 weeks)

Unit G2A

Developing Professional Practice (10 credits)


Unit G3A

Research Through Practice (30 credits)

Unit G2B

Conservation Science: Development and Applications (10 credits)

Unit G2C

Contextual and Professional Studies 2 (10 credits)



Entry requirements

Degree or qualification at equivalent level to a second year of undergraduate study (e.g. HND. FdA or DipHE) and an interest or experience in object conservation and cultural heritage. 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 their capacity for degree-level work in other ways.

International students will require English language CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level B2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.

If you fulfil the entry requirements you will be invited to visit the College for an interview with the programme tutor and another senior member of academic staff, and undertake a practical test if applicable.

Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for UK and international students

  • £4,230 per term (£12,690 per year)

Included is mandatory study trip costs of £400, which typically includes tailored visits to collections/exhibitions of specific interest to the programme of study.

Additional costs

Lunch, accommodation and other living expenses are additional. Find out more


If you are a UK/EU student you may be eligible to apply for a Student Loan (tuition fees and/or maintenance loans) from the Student Loans Company. There are also a variety of Scholarship and Bursary awards available for students who have accepted an offer to study here. Applicants for a scholarship should show outstanding potential and a commitment to their studies and future career in their chosen subject. Applicants for a bursary award are required to demonstrate financial need.

Find out more about funding opportunities


Graduates of the programme usually transition to the MA Conservation Studies. Others pursue entry level positions in the heritage sector.

Work as a conservation professional in a museum, library or archive, with public and private collections, pursue a career path into collections care and management or as an independent book conservator. Graduates have gone on to work on books at Cambridge University Library, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Smithsonian Institution, Chester Beatty Library, Dundee University Library, PZ Conservation, Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Library and Lambeth Palace Library.

"West Dean has given me the opportunity to work with exceptional objects while enhancing my conservation knowledge and preparing me for a successful career in conservation."

Noah Smutz, Postgraduate Diploma, Conservation of Books and Library Materials


Mariluz Beltran de Guevara ACR

Mariluz Beltran de Guevara ACR - Subject Leader Conservation of Books

Mariluz Beltran de Guevara has been an accredited book and paper conservator since 2008, and joined West Dean College in 2017 after many years at the British Library.

Abigail Bainbridge MA ACR

Subject tutor

Abigail Bainbridge co-owns Bainbridge Conservation, specialising in the conservation of books and paper for private clients and institutions. She has worked as a conservator as well as actively teaching workshops in bookbinding and book conservation internationally.

Program advisors

Jane Eagan: Book Conservator, Oxford Colleges Conservation Consortium

Open Day - register today

Come and find out what makes West Dean College of Arts and Conservation such an amazing place to study. Explore the studios, take a tour with students, discuss your study options, and find out about funding at our next Open Day on:

Friday 6 December 2019

Register your place and find out more