Still accepting applications for September 2017 entry

Duration: 1 academic year (36 weeks pa) full time

The Graduate Diploma in Visual Arts 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 Visual Arts.

The content of the programme is focused on the integration of three domains of study essential to the successful development of a sustainable studio practice: Practical, Theoretical and Professional. Each of these domains is developed through specialised Study Units undertaken throughout the academic year, including studio practice, a programme of workshops and lectures, as well as professional development opportunities. Graduate Diploma students can work across disciplines or choose to specialise in areas such as Painting & Drawing, Sculpture or Tapestry & Textile Art.

Graduate Diploma students can expect:

  • A stimulating and supportive learning environment in which to develop their creative practice
  • Support in developing both interdisciplinary and specialist studio work
  • Access to advanced facilities, workshops and expertise
  • 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

Learning Environment:

  • Large individual studio spaces
  • An excellent staff-to-student ratio with the possibility for weekly tutorial support
  • 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 Visual Arts studios throughout the academic year
  • An immersive environment with rich connections to art history, particularly Surrealism, through the legacy of college founder Edward James

Student Perspective

I was first attracted to the Visual Arts department because of its reputation for academic rigour and critical feedback through an unlimited tutorial system. While I did not have a formal qualification in Visual Arts, a degree in Cultural Studies along with an extensive drawing and printmaking portfolio gained me a place on the Graduate Diploma programme.

During the year, I have transformed my practice to include large scale sculptures and installations. Generous studio space, freedom to experiment, along with expert tuition in the forge, print room and ceramics studio gave me the skills and confidence to realise some ambitious ideas." Sarah Cliff, Graduate Diploma Visual Arts

View some of the work exhibited at Divergence, the West Dean Visual Arts Summer Show 2015.


All full-time Visual Arts students are provided with a large individual workspace in the Edward James Studios. In addition to specialist spaces dedicated to Painting and Drawing, Sculpture and Tapestry and Textile-based work, the studios also include Seminar Room, a materials and tool store, a small photographic darkroom, bookable exhibition and research spaces, plus 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.

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. The Short Course programme also allows students to access a wide range of visiting tutors and specialist techniques that can further enhance their studies.

West Dean House and Estate offers students access to ambitious exhibition opportunities and unique research material. Students are able to submit site-specific proposals throughout the year and are encouraged to take part in the annual Open House event. The Edward James Collection is an outstanding resource for full-time students, given them access to a range of significant, even iconic, works of art as an ongoing source of inspiration and research.

The College's Arts and Conservation Library gives students access to thousands of specialist books, journals and databases to support their studies.

The Main House also contains West Dean Tapestry Studio, one of the world's leading producers of hand-woven tapestry. As well as having close contact with the expertise of Master Weavers and designers, students have access to the studio's Dye Rooms, a specialist facility for the dyeing of yarn. Find out more about the professional Tapestry Studio here.

Entry Requirements

The following qualifications will be considered for entry on to the Graduate Diploma programme:

  • A recognised degree or equivalent in an art-related subject
  • A qualification equivalent to a second year of successful undergraduate study e.g. HND, DipHE
  • A strong 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, documentation and an example of written work

English Language requirement

English Language: CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level B2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.


Jane Fremantle, Graduate Diploma Visual Arts.
Visual Arts studio space.
Visual Arts Printmaking Studio.
Broken Threads by Cathy Griffiths, Graduate Diploma Visual Arts.
June Ngan, Graduate Diploma, Visual Arts.
Tapestry Weaving, Graduate Diploma Visual Arts.
Philip Sanderson, Visual Arts tutor.
Margaret Jones Graduate Diploma Visual Arts. Photo credit: Peter Jones.


  • UK/EU Fee: £10,245
  • International: £13,140
    Fees payable by term, 2 weeks in advance of term start date

Funding available - find out more


David Stent

Visual Arts Programme Leader, Dr. David R J Stent is an artist, writer, curator and musician. His diverse practice draws on various media including drawing, photography, digital and print publishing, film and video, sonic and sculptural installation.

Philip Sanderson

Philip Sanderson studied both at Middlesex University and the Royal College of Art before joining the Professional Tapestry Studio at West Dean College in 1993, and his current role is as a Master Weaver Designer. Philip has designed tapestries for numerous clients, notably for the New Parliamentary Buildings in Westminster.

Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is Research Assistant at West Dean College and Visiting Lecturer on the full-time Visual Arts programmes . She is a practicing artist, performer, and composer, working across sculpture, improvised music, composition and publishing.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for this course or would like further information please contact admissions either by enquiring online or calling the number below. To make your application you will need to download and fill out our application form.

+44 (0)1243 818 291

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Applications open for September 2017 entry for UK, EU and International students.

Learn more about applying and entry

Find out about Funding opportunities here