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The MFA (Master of Fine Art) at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation is an advanced two-year full-time masters of fine art designed to further advance students' capacities in practical, theoretical and professional domains, with an emphasis on specialist studio practice. MFA students will establish and refine core concerns and ambitions, as well as subjecting the work to critical scrutiny and self-reflection. Interdisciplinary practices are encouraged and supported, as well as those focused on a single discipline such as Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Drawing, Tapestry and Textiles. You will benefit from sustained periods of studio-based activity, with dissertation requirements coming early in the second year.
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.
MFA units include
You can expect
All full-time Fine Arts students are provided with a large individual workspace in the Edward James Studios, with access 8.30am-9pm seven days a week*. In addition to students individual spaces, the studios include:
There is also:
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.
* Coronavirus update: Workshops and studio spaces may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning.
Each year students stage a series of public exhibitions, including pop-up exhibitions, an annual fundraising exhibition and the celebrated Summer Shows that are held at the College and one other location, recently London and Margate, Kent. Through these, students develop skills in the requirements of exhibition management, such as production, installation and marketing.
As well as being encouraged to exhibit externally, both locally and nationally, during their studies, students have the unique opportunity to propose installations within West Dean House and West Dean Gardens. Project proposals are encouraged to reflect the rich heritage of West Dean and the legacy of College founder Edward James. See the 2018 installations
There will be two Fine Art exhibitions this summer. The first is the annual Summer Show the culmination of the academic year, presented in the Edward James Studios. The second is BOUNCE, a group show at Copeland Gallery in London, in which current students will be joined by some alumni from last year, whose expected exhibition opportunities were disrupted by the pandemic. The free exhibitions display a diverse range of practices including sculpture, installation, print, painting, film, ceramics, and textiles.Visit the Summer Show 2021
You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical workshops, individual and group tutorials, critique sessions, oral and written presentations, and external visits.
On the Master of Fine Art (MFA) you will have around 11-12 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:
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:
33% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 785 hours
Independent learning: 1615 hours
Coronavirus update: International study trips have been suspended in with current guidelines. We aim to recommence UK field trips and visits in the second semester.
|Year 1 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)|
|Study block 1||Formative review||Study block 2|
Unit VA MFA 1A
Creative Research Strategies
Unit VA MFA 1B
Application of Philosophical Aesthetics
Unit VA MFA 1C
|Year 1 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)|
|Study block 3||Formative review||Study block 4|
Unit VA MFA 3A
Art Research and Criticality
Unit VA MFA 3C
Studio work 2 (interim exhibition)
|Year 2 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)|
|Study block 1||Formative review||Study block 2|
Unit VA MFA 5A
Unit VA MFA 5C
Studio work 3
|Year 2 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)|
|Study block 3||Formative review||Study block 4|
Unit VA MFA 7A
Unit VA MFA 7C
Studio work 4 (summer show)
The following qualifications will be considered for entry on to the MFA:
Course fees are the same for UK and international students
Includes study trip costs of £400 which typically includes tailored visits to collections/exhibitions of specific interest to the programme of study. Lunch, accommodation and other living expenses are additional. Find out more
If you are a UK student and plan to take a postgraduate Master's course you may be able to get a postgraduate loan of up to £10,906 to help with course fees and living costs. See www.gov.uk/postgraduate-loan
Student Scholarships and Bursaries
Scholarships and bursaries are available up to £3,000.
"One of the best aspects of the course so far has been the opportunity to work with professionals in mediums such as stone carving and ceramics that I had not considered before."Agata Bogacka, Master of Fine Arts student
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."
"After studying for a BA in Fine Art, I wanted to further my education and gain more manual skills. West Dean College seemed a perfect choice because of its interdisciplinary teaching and access to workshops and short courses.
My art practice is based on materiality and the variety of teaching available and importance put on making has been amazing. I have introduced ceramics, textiles and printmaking into my art practice, all because of the access that I have had to real experts in these fields.
Thanks to the support of the Edward James Foundation, I have been able to fully immerse myself in my art and creativity. I know that having an MFA qualification is going to be life changing." Nicola Ferrie, MFA
The Artist-in-Residence programme sees a series of professional artists living and working onsite, amongst Fine Art students. They enrich the creative learning environment by offering tutorial sessions with students as well as public presentations on the work produced during the residency and their wider practice.
"The MFA gave me the skills to be a financially independent, self-employed artist." Kate Boucher, MFA
Fine Art alumni are based all over the world and regularly exhibit their work in a variety of venues including the APS Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale, Malta; Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, London; Malamegi Lab, Italy; and Art Rooms, London.
In 2018 MFA alumna, Lotti V Closs, completed a month-long residency at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop with support from her recently awarded a-n Artist Bursary for 2018, a prize supporting self-directed professional development projects.
MA graduate Laura Luna Castillo, working in collaboration with another West Dean alumnus, Conservation of Clocks graduate Jonathan Turner-Bishop, completed a Kamiyama Artists' Residency in Japan with an exhibition during October 2018. Their piece, Yorii-za theatre, was the culmination of several months working on site in the town of Kamiyama.
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.
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.
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 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.
Sessional Tutor, Printmaking, DACC, GD and MFA Fine Art
Poppy Jones is an artist and lecturer based in the UK. Working primarily with traditional printmaking tools and materials together with digital printing, Jones’ work stems from her research interest in materiality and the digital image.
Lecturer MFA Fine Art, DACC
Rebecca is an artist, writer and curator who has been exhibiting internationally since graduating from the Royal Academy Schools in 2007. She has been a lecturer at West Dean since 2012.
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.
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.