Fine Art

Graduate Diploma Fine Art

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Duration: 1 academic year (36 weeks pa) full time
Applications open
Scholarships and bursaries available up to £2,500 | Read more about funding

The Graduate Diploma in Fine Art is a one-year interdisciplinary programme designed to provide a route into postgraduate study. As a concentrated form of an undergraduate degree, the programme gives graduates of other disciplines the opportunity to transfer existing skills to the study of Fine Arts. As you progress through the programme, you can work across disciplines or choose to specialise in areas such as Painting and Drawing, Sculpture, or Tapestry and Textile Art.

Studio Work units run continuously throughout the academic year as the core of the Graduate Diploma programme, informed and enhanced by additional theoretical and professional units.

A variety of materials-based workshops are undertaken in the first semester, focused by critical engagement with the Ronald Lee Archive, a unique archival resource of visual and material culture that promotes the production of new artworks for a 'pop-up' exhibition.

A series of lectures and seminars introduces Philosophical Aesthetics and supports the writing of a critical essay.

The second semester incorporates Contextual and Professional Research, helping students to situate their own practices in a historical and contemporary context. The year culminates in a Summer Show open to the public.

Learning environment

  • A stimulating and supportive learning environment in which to develop your creative practice
  • A specialised programme of lectures, seminars and workshops
  • Input from regular visiting lecturers and artists
  • Expert support for a dedicated team of workshop technicians
  • Professional development provision for gallery visits and other external events
  • Contact with a regular series of professional artists-in-residence based in the studios throughout the academic year
  • An immersive environment with rich connections to art history, particularly Surrealism, through the legacy of college founder Edward James

You can expect

  • Low student : tutor ratio
  • Dedicated individual studio space
  • Access to advanced facilities, workshops and expertise
  • Support in developing both interdisciplinary and specialist studio work
  • Support in developing critical thinking and contextual knowledge
  • Opportunities to display work in various contexts
  • Support for developing transferable skills such as self-management, communication, collaboration, IT and research skills
  • Increased independence and self-reliance applicable for further study, practice or employment

How to apply

All applications to our full time undergraduate courses should be made through UCAS. 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

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

Apply through UCAS


All full-time Fine Art students are provided with individual workspaces in the Edward James Studios, with access from 8.30am-9pm, seven days a week*. Other facilities in the studios include:

  • a seminar room
  • a materials and tool store
  • a small photographic darkroom
  • bookable exhibition and research spaces
  • an IT suite with digital editing software.

A self-contained Print Room offers specialist facilities for etching, aquatint, monoprinting, woodblock and linocut. Students can work on a large-scale in the Sculpture Courtyard, which is also suitable for work in stone carving, and can access the specialist Arts and Conservation Library.

Materials workshops are integrated into studio teaching so that traditional and innovative techniques and practical skills are placed at the centre of the discipline. Workshops can also be tailored to suit individual students’ needs.

Materials workshops include:

  • 10-week tapestry induction
  • Printmaking: monotype, non-toxic etching, screen printing
  • Traditional and experimental approaches to drawing
  • Materials and techniques for painters
  • Applications of colour theory
  • Casting for sculpture
  • Induction to stone carving and blacksmithing
  • Ceramics evening classes, plus Raku and pit-firing

Access to short courses
To develop particular skills and techniques students can access over 800 short courses. If places are available at weekends during term, students are encouraged to attend free of charge, (there may be a charge for specific material or model fees) or can book in advance at a reduced rate. 

House, Grounds, Collection and Archive
The House and Estate offers ambitious exhibition opportunities and unique research material, and students can submit site-specific proposals throughout the year. The Edward James Collection, is an outstanding resource, giving students access to significant works of art and historic objects; including paintings, drawings and prints by artists most notably, Salvador DalÍ, Rene Magritte, Leonora Carrington, Pavel Tchelitchew, and Leonor Fini.

West Dean Tapestry Studio
One of the world's leading producers of hand-woven tapestry; students have close contact with the expertise of Master Weavers and designers, and access to the studio's Dye Rooms, a specialist facility for the dyeing of yarn. Find out more about the professional Tapestry Studio.

Interdisciplinary study
Students are encouraged to collaborate with other College departments, particularly the full-time programmes in the School of Conservation, making the most of the wide range of specialist knowledge, materials and equipment that is available.

Coronavirus update: Workshops and studio spaces may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning.

see more about fine art facilities

"The space in the studios at West Dean and the opportunity to do such large-scale work is unique. There's amazing space here - it blows my mind!"

Emma Rimer, Graduate Diploma student

Entry Requirements

  • A qualification equivalent to a second year of successful undergraduate study e.g. HND, DipHE
  • A relevant Foundation Degree in Fine Art or related subject
  • Portfolio: presenting a concise overview of the development and current focus of your practice, including sketchbooks, journals and an example of written work
  • English language: CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) Level B2 or IELTS 6.5

Contact Hours


You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical workshops, individual and group tutorials, critique sessions, oral and written presentations, external visits and self-directed research.

On the Graduate Diploma you typically have around 13-14 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 2 hours of lectures
  • 1-2 hours of seminars
  • 2 hours of one-to-one/group tutorials
  • 1 hour of critique sessions
  • 6 hours of practical workshops
  • 1 hour of external visits (on average)

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars, workshops or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-directed study. Typically, this will involve:

  • working in the studio
  • developing supporting material and research portfolios
  • undertaking research in the library
  • reading journal articles and books
  • working on specific unit assignments
  • preparing presentations and self-assessments.

Overall workload

Graduate Diploma: 40% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 480 hours
Independent learning: 720 hours

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 Formative review Study block 2

Unit VA G1B
Materials of the Artist
15 credits

Unit VA G1B
Introduction to Philosophical Aesthetics
15 credits

Unit VA G1C

Studio work 1
30 credits

Semester 2 (18 weeks)
Study block 3 Formative review Study block 4

Unit VA G3A

Contextual and Professional Research

20 credits

Unit VA G3C

Studio work 2 (summer show)

40 credits


Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for UK and international students

  • £3,600 per term (£10,800 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 £2,500.

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

Exhibition opportunities

Each year students stage a series of public exhibitions, including an annual fundraising exhibition and the celebrated Summer Shows that are held at the College and in London. Through these students develop skills in the requirements of exhibition management, such as production, installation and marketing.

Summer Show 2022

Two Fine Art exhibitions will be taking place during Summer 2022. The first will be the annual Summer Show; the culmination of the academic year, presented in the Edward James Studios. The second will be BOUNCE, a group show at Copeland Gallery in London. The free exhibitions will display a diverse range of practices including sculpture, installation, print, painting, film, ceramics, and textiles.

See the Summer Show 2021 online

Artists in Residence Programme

The Artist-in-Residence programme sees a series of professional artists living and working onsite, amongst Visual Arts students. They offer tutorial sessions with students as well as public presentations on the work produced during the residency and their wider practice.

Find out more

University of Sussex Logo


Commendations from the University of Sussex include:

"The high quality student experience and strength of student representation within the College."

"The changes to units so they draw on and make use of specific collections within the archive."

"The linking of theory and practice, and delivery of theory by studio technicians."

Careers and alumni

Graduates typically progress to the MFA.

Fine Art graduates have gone on to succeed in a range of fields, including internationally-based prize-winning practitioners regularly exhibiting their work in a variety of venues. Others have gone on to become gallerists and curators, as well as entering the fields of art education, arts administration and other cultural industries.

“It is almost impossible to explain the many ways that West Dean prepared me for the outside world, but opening me up to new ideas and teaching me to be a critical artist, exploring materials and approaches was a life enhancing outcome.” Cherie Lubbock, Graduate Diploma Fine Art and MFA alumna.

Read more alumni profiles

School of Arts blog

The Size of a Cow

Insights into the practice of MFA student Philippa Clarke  My ongoing research focuses on the areas where art and agriculture come together. By paying attention to this intersection, I aim to prompt questions about farming, food production, and the way we regard rural life.

Find out more

Law Quilt: A response to Edward James' writing on homosexuality

By Robin Bray-Hurren, MFA student Law Quilt was a response to some of the materials from the Edward James Archive, where Edward James was writing about homosexuality, morality, and the law, including a description of a friends' experience of police entrapment and subsequent court case in LA in the late 1950s.   There were so many potential places to take work in response to... Find out more

The finished press on its platform

The Etching Press: A generous gift

By Dr. David Stent, Fine Art Subject Leader At the beginning of the year, through the support of Mary Dalton (printmaker and West Dean Short Course Tutor), it came to our attention in the Fine Art department that there was a possibility of a floor-standing etching press being donated to us. Without knowing any further details, we expressed our interest in adding to the existing printmaking... Find out more

Phoebe Connolly working on Skylark test panel for Cherryburn. (Photo by Georjie Adams)

Student Commission and Residency at Cherryburn

Earlier this Spring, current Fine Art Graduate Diploma student Phoebe Connolly was awarded the prestigious Cherryburn commission and residency, supported by The National Trust and The Society of Wood Engravers. Holding off strong competition, Phoebe secured the chance to spend time at the Northumberland birthplace of renowned artist, wood engraver and naturalist, Thomas Bewick, over a period... Find out more

Salvatore Arancio - Like a sort of Pompeii, 2019. New Art Centre.

Psychotropical: Fine Art visit to New Art Centre

By Dr. David Stent, Fine Art Subject Leader Last month the Fine Art students and a few staff members visited the New Art Centre at Roche Court, East Winterslow, Wiltshire. As part of Professional and Contextual Research study units, the students were tasked with writing a critical review of the current temporary exhibition, Psychotropics, curated by Iwona Blazwick (Director of the... Find out more

Delve into School of Arts department news, events, and student and staff work on the School of Arts blog.


David Stent

Subject Leader - Fine Art

Dr David Stent is an artist, writer, curator and performer. His practice has drawn on various media, from drawing and painting to film, video, sonic and sculptural installation. He holds a PhD in Fine Art from the University of Reading, and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Philip Sanderson

Tapestry Subject Tutor and Studio Leader

Philip Sanderson is Leader of the Professional Tapestry Studio and a Subject Tutor on the MFA in Fine Art. He is also the Tutor for the Tapestry Foundation Diploma and a short course tutor. During his time at West Dean Philip has translated the work of a number of artists into large-scale tapestries including Marta Rogoyska, John Hubbard, Tracy Emin, and Eva Rothschild. 

Sarah Hughes

Subject Tutor (Fine Art) and Collections Curator

Sarah Hughes is a Subject Tutor on the full-time Fine Art programmes and Curatorial Assistant in the College's Collections Department. She is a practicing artist, performer, and composer with a long standing interest in alternative modes of living, creative agency, and acts of resistance.

George Charman

Year 2 Lead Tutor

George Charman is an artist and lecturer based in London who teaches on the DACC, GD and MFA programmes at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. Charman's practice-led research focuses on embodied social knowledge, exploring connections between dialogic social experiences and physical sensation in modes of creative production/fabrication.

Jon Shaw

Jon K Shaw is a writer, editor and educator based in southeast London. He teaches in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London; City & Guilds of London Art School; and West Dean College of Arts and Conservation.