Conservation Studies

Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies

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Duration: One academic year (36 weeks) full time
Applications are now closed for clocks specialism 2022-23. Applications open for all other subjects.
Scholarships and bursaries are available from £500 to £10,000 | Read more about funding

The Graduate Diploma (Level 6) is the start of your transition into Conservation Studies. 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. Students choose one of the pathway specialisms below, yet elements of interdisciplinary work are still involved. 

Subject specialisms

  • Books and Library Materials
    Books and Library Materials is the largest specialism in the material conservation sector, and this programme has a high success rate with alumni going on to work in libraries and archives worldwide. 
  • Ceramics and Related Materials
    Specialise in Ceramics and Related Materials and work with a range of exciting objects from historical and private collections, from archaeological finds to decorative arts objects. 
  • Furniture and Related Objects
    Enhance your employment prospects and work towards becoming a professional furniture conservator or craftsperson. Students work on a range of live projects in a stimulating workshop environment.
  • Horology, Clocks and Related Objects
    Studying Clocks and related dynamic objects allow you to develop the skills and competences to work towards becoming a professional horologist or horological conservator. Students work on clock conservation, restoration and repair.
  • Metalwork
    Studying Metalwork opens up a range of possibilities for you as you work towards becoming a professional craftsperson or metalwork conservator. Students have access to live projects and exceptional facilities.

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Well-equipped workshops
  • Workshop access
  • Individual workbench 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


The use of analytical technologies in conservation is driven by the need to understand the work and its condition. When assessing a historical object you will look at material makeup, method of production or artistic techniques used and areas of damage or deterioration. 

In addition to the extensive facilities each specialist studio and workshop has, is the new Science Laboratory (opened late 2019) and our Art and Conservation Library. The science equipment and laboratory has recently undergone a significant upgrade. The facilities have been developed to give students the knowledge and familiarity with their general application to perform analytical techniques commonly used in the heritage sector.

Equipment includes: 

  • Tensometer
  • FTIR Spectrometer 
  • Portable X-ray Fluorescence (PXRF) Spectrometer 
  • Fluorescence Microscope 
  • Visible Light Spectrometer 
  • UV-visible Spectrometer 

Students also have the opportunity to work in well-equipped professional workshops and studios with access seven days a week, 8.30am to 9pm*. 

The College Art and Conservation Library has thousands of specialist books and journals and all students have access to specialist databases in the IT suite.

* Coronavirus update: Workshops may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning.

Find out more about the facilities

"If I think about my time here, the biggest delights have been in meeting so many likeminded people and visiting so many professional establishments (in particular when we all travelled to Vienna). Being able to talk regularly with passionate students and professionals has been amazing. The tutors in our programme are true experts in their fields with a mountain of experience behind them."

Shane Orion Wiechnik, Graduate Diploma student

Entry requirements

Degree or qualification at an equivalent level to the 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.

How to apply

All applications to our full time undergraduate courses should be made through UCAS, using the links below. You will need to have decided your subject specialism before you apply. 

If you only wish to apply to West Dean College of Arts and Conservation we might be able to process your UCAS application for you. Please contact us at

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Books and Library Materials

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Ceramics

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Clocks (course full for 2022)

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Furniture and Related Objects

GD Conservation Studies - specialising in Metalwork

If you would like further information, please contact our admissions team. Email or call 07771 505 666.

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
  • 1 hour of one-to-one meetings/tutorials

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars, workshops 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

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. Full details in our coronavirus update.

term dates

Programme structure

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

Read more

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)


Programme content

You will be introduced to conservation documentation, conservation technique and application, materials science and how history and context informs decision-making in conservation. As the year progresses, you will undertake more complex conservation projects and by the end of the course you will have acquired a repertoire of conservation treatments and gained an understanding and appreciation of the history and cultural context of objects in your chosen pathway.

The content of this programme has been developed in line with The Institute of Conservation’s Professional Standards in Conservation and the UK Quality Code for Higher Education.

Read more about the programme content

Unique features

  • The has a large and diverse collection comprising objects from all disciplines. The collections are used by students to apply their knowledge to real-life problems. 
  • The immersive environment encourages joint learning and interdisciplinary practice.
  • Regular visiting lecturers and part time tutors from public and private institutions.
  • Field trips to conservation studios, historic sites and exhibitions.
  • The programme has a low student to staff ratio.
  • The 36 week programme has workshop access 8.30am – 10pm, seven days a week which is exceptional in a higher education environment.

Contextual and professional studies

Students across all pathways study together to examine the common foundations of historical, cultural and professional knowledge that are relevant to understanding contemporary conservation practice. Content is delivered through a mix of lectures, recommended reading, seminars and visits.

Themes explored in the first semester include the role of the conservator, ethics and conservation standards, the value of craft, sustainability and the significance of heritage to different cultures. The driver for this unit of study is to help students situate the specific conservation projects they are working on in their specialist pathways within a wider cultural and professional context. Seminar sessions provide an opportunity for students to share their own projects and discuss the ethical dilemmas and complexities around decision making with their peers. Exercises and assignments are designed to introduce research skills and promote critical analysis and reflection.

For the second semester the focus moves to the collection, its context and the associated complexities of decision-making. Visiting lecturers and visits will introduce students to a range of preservation strategies in different organisations. Students will consider how the decision-making for the treatment of objects they work on can be influenced by the context of the collection they are part of or the institutional policies or strategies of their custodians. Students are asked to present case studies on the challenges of collections care in different situations and exercises and assignments are designed to continue the development of research skills, critical analysis and reflection.

These units are complimented by the bi-annual cross school trip.

Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for the UK and international students

£4,230 per term (£12,690 per 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.


Scholarships and bursaries are available from £500 to £10,000.

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. 

Find out more about funding opportunities


On completion of the Graduate Diploma, many students go on to study the MA Conservation Studies which includes a six-week work placement to broaden practical experience, build contacts and gain transferable skills. Others pursue entry-level positions in the heritage sector. The College’s extensive links with museums, conservators and professional bodies in the heritage sector open up an impressive range of work placement opportunities.

Graduates have had placements at, or gone on to work with the Amsterdam City Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago, Bodleian Library, Brighton Pavilion, British Museum, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Heritage Blacksmith Partnership, Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Palace Library, Leiden University Library, Library of Congress, Maritime Museum Rotterdam, National Museum of American History, Notarial Archives, Malta, Oxford Conservation Consortium, Richard Rogers Conservation, Royal Collection Trust, Royal Museums Greenwich, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), Yale University Library.

Read more in our interviews with alumni


Can I study a mixture of the Conservation specialisms on this course?

Students on the Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies choose one of the following pathways to specialise in when they apply: Books and Library Materials, Ceramics and Related Materials, Clocks and Related Objects, Furniture and Related Objects, Metalwork.

I am interested in Conservation but don’t meet the academic entry requirements or have been out of formal education for a while. Can I still apply?

Accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) will be considered. In these cases, applicants would need to demonstrate their capacity for degree-level work through a portfolio of work, prior learning and an interest or experience in object conservation and cultural heritage. 

What would you expect to see in a Conservation Studies portfolio?

A portfolio should demonstrate your interest and experience in conservation and your chosen specialism. It can comprise sketches, photos, video evidence of you working in a conservation environment with your hands using materials such as Books, Metals, Furniture (relevant to your chosen specialism).

What is involved in the practical test?

You are asked to complete a task using workshop tools so we can see that you have the right level of mental agility and manual dexterity to undertake the practical elements of the course. Assessments take place onsite at the College workshops or remotely when it is not possible to come into the College.

University of Sussex Logo


Commendations from the University of Sussex include:

"This re-validation further builds on the success of the courses, which have been refined over a number of years to produce excellent results."

"The professional networking opportunities provided through external collaborations and the opportunities for students to disseminate their work to an external audience."

"The approach to fostering a collaborative, creative student community in line with Edward James’ vision for the College."


Elizabeth Neville MA ACR

Head of School of Conservation

Elizabeth Neville has over thirty years' experience as a book conservator, interspersed with teaching and supervising on the Graduate Diploma in Books and Library Materials and MA Conservation Studies courses at West Dean.

Malcolm Archer

Subject leader and short course tutor

Malcolm's extensive experience in private practice, as well as the heritage sector/museums, lies behind his in-depth understanding of the profession. He brings a comprehensive knowledge of traditional craft skills, theory and contextual history. He also has an interest in new and innovative ways of applying conservation to mechanical objects.

Lorna Calcutt MA ACR

Subject Leader, Ceramics (and Related Materials)

Lorna has been a tutor then Subject Leader at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation for 16 years and prior to that was employed as a conservator in national institutions and in the private sector.

Dr Eric Nordgren AFHEA

Subject Leader, Conservation of Metalwork

Dr Eric Nordgren brings over 20 years' experience as a metals conservator working with museums, universities, heritage agencies and private practice in the UK and around the world. He is active in the Icon Metals and Heritage Science groups, and is an associate member of AIC, ICOM-CC and the Historical Metallurgy Society.

David Dorning (MA ACR FIIC)

Subject Tutor, Conservation Science

David is a book and paper conservation specialist who has tutored more than a generation of book conservators since he began as a tutor in book conservation at West Dean College in 1988. He has taught science for conservators in the UK, USA and Europe, established the analytical laboratory at West Dean College in 2007 and has been the college's science tutor for 25 years.

Tim Hughes

Subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects)

Tim Hughes MBHI, clock maker, trained at West Dean College and works as a clockmaker and scientific instrument restorer, and as external consultant at Bellmans Auctioneers. He has received several awards, including the Trustees' Prize while at West Dean College and a QEST Scholarship. 

Lara Meredith

Subject Tutor, Conservation of Books

Lara Meredith became a Book & Archive Conservator after graduating from Camberwell College of Arts.  Lara has been working as a Freelance Book & Archive Conservator since 1999 including work with The National Trust, The Leather Conservation Centre and private clients.

Katrina Redman

Subject Tutor, Metalwork

Katrina specialises in metals conservation and gained her Postgraduate Diploma in Metals Conservation from West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. She has worked in private practice, as well as at the V&A Museum working on the Gilbert Collection. In 2018, Katrina returned to West Dean College to take up the role of Subject Tutor for Metals.

Jasmina Vučković MA ACR

Subject Tutor, Ceramics (and Related Materials)

Jasmina Vuckovic is Subject Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. She has been a visiting lecturer at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation prior to becoming a subject tutor in 2018. Jasmina is a member of ICOM and accredited member of Icon.

Maudie Casserly

Subject Tutor, Conservation of Books

Maudie is a book and paper conservator and bookbinder. Having worked a various institutions and companies over the years, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and The National Archives, Maudie now works for herself, taking on commissions from museums, libraries, collections and private individuals. In additional to practical conservation and binding, Maudie also teaches a range of online classes in bookbinding  to students all over the world.

Ian Watson

Subject Tutor – School of Conservation, Books and Library Materials

Having been working with books for many years Ian first joined West Dean College as a student in 2009, gaining an MA (Distinction) in the Conservation of Books and Library Materials in 2011. Ian is an accredited member of the Institute of Conservation and a member of the IIC. and returned to West Dean College as Subject Tutor in 2021.