Fine Art

MFA (Master of Fine Art) - Blended delivery

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Duration: 2 academic years (36 weeks pa) blended delivery
On-site | Online | Independent study
Applications open
Scholarships and bursaries available | Read more about funding

The MFA (Master of Fine Art) 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.

The Blended Delivery MFA follows the same general programme specification as the  fully on-site MFA programme, with a greater degree of flexibility to fit around your existing practice or commitments. Students attend a series of ten one-week, on-site study blocks, in combination with interim access to a range of online resources (making use of both synchronous and asynchronous delivery) throughout each academic year. Each one-week study block will typically include practical sessions, one-to-one or group tutorials, critiques and lectures. During these blocks you will also have access to a shared study space in the Fine Art Studios, and the opportunity to make the most of the College’s specialist facilities including a print room, dark room and sculpture courtyard.  

Learning environment

  • Blended Delivery MFA students are provided with a large shared workspace in the Edward James Studios for each on-site study block
  • Excellent staff-to-student ratio with regular tutorial support
  • Specialised lectures, seminars and workshops with regular visiting lecturers and artists
  • Expert support from workshop technicians during study blocks
  • Professional development - gallery visits and other external events
  • Contact with a regular series of professional Artists-in-Residence 
  • An immersive environment with rich connections to art history, particularly Surrealism, through the legacy of College founder Edward James

You can expect

  • Support in consolidating studio practice to a high standard
  • Access to facilities, workshops and expertise for the fabrication of artworks relating to the individual student's ambitions.
  • Access to a large studio and outdoor facilities during each study block, make it possible to realise ambitious work
  • Opportunities for innovative approaches to studio practice so conceptual ideas can be tested and informed using selected media
  • To develop originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the Fine Art
  • Systematic understanding and critical awareness of current debates in contemporary art practice
  • To develop aptitude for professional practice, independent research or employment, including opportunities for public exhibition

MFA units include:

  • Studio work units run consistently throughout the MFA programme
  • Creative Research Strategies (18-weeks) - with access to the on-site Edward James Archive to develop new work and supporting research.
  • Art Research and Criticality - lecture series with support in research skills 
  • Professional Practice - supports you in preparations for the Summer Shows and include workshops dedicated to Artist Statements, documentation, profile building and curator-led critiques.

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.

Philippa Clarke in art studio at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation


Blended Delivery MFA students are provided with a large shared workspace in the Edward James Studios for each study block, with access 8.30am-9pm five days a week*. Additional facilities onsite include:

  • A seminar room
  • Materials and tool store
  • Small photographic darkroom
  • Bookable exhibition and research spaces

There is also:

  • An IT suite with digital editing software
  • A self-contained Print Room with specialist facilities for etching, aquatint, monoprinting, woodblock and linocut.
  • Sculpture Courtyard for large-scale work, which is also suitable for work in stone carving
  • Specialist Arts and Conservation Library (accessible remotely)

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.

read more about fine art facilities

Exhibition opportunities

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

Entry requirements

The following qualifications will be considered for entry on to the MFA:

  • An Honours Degree or equivalent qualification in Fine Art or a related discipline
  • Relevant work experience in an arts-related field which demonstrates your ability to study at postgraduate level
  • Portfolio: including evidence of current practical work, sketchbooks, documentation, and evidence of critical writing
  • An appropriate level of engagement with current debates in contemporary arts and making is required
  • English language: CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) Level 2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.

Contact hours


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 Blended Delivery MFA the division of learning hours, on-site and online periods breaks down as follows:

  • Three one-week, on-site blocks each term (10 per year including induction week)
  • Online delivery
  • Independent study

On each of the Blended Delivery MFA study blocks you will have around 11-12 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 2 hours of lectures
  • 1 hour of seminars
  • 2 hours of one-to-one/group tutorials
  • 1-2 hours of critique sessions
  • 4 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 your own studio (or the on-site studio during study blocks)
  • 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

33% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 785 hours
Independent learning: 1615 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

Year 1 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)
Block 1
September/October on-site Induction week
Block 2
October on-site Mon: MFA 1A – Creative Research Strategies – Workshops/Tutorials
Tues: MFA 1C – App. of Phil. Aesthetics – Tutorials/Independent Study
Weds: MFA 1C – Studio Work I – Visiting Artists/Workshops
Thurs: MFA 1B – Creative Research Strategies – Lectures/Seminars
Fri: MFA 1C – Studio Work I – Critiques / Independent Study
Block 3
November on-site As above
Block 4
December on-site As above
Block 5
January on-site As above
Block 6
February on-site As above
Year 1 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)
Block 7
March on-site Mon: MFA 3C – Art Research and Criticality – Workshops/Tutorial
Tues: MFA 3C – Studio Work II – Critiques/Independent Study
Weds: MFA 3C – Studio Work II – Visiting Artists/Workshops
Thurs: MFA 3A – Art Research and Criticality – Lectures/Seminars
Fri: MFA 3A – Studio Work II – Critiques/Tutorials/Independent Study
Block 8
April on-site As above
Block 9
May on-site As above
Block 10
June on-site As above


Year 2 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)
Block 11
September/October on-site Induction week
Block 12
October on-site Mon: Studio Work III – Workshops/Tutorials/Independent Study
Tues: MFA 5A & 5C – Dissertation/Studio Work III – Independent Study
Weds: MFA 5C – Studio Work – Visiting Artists/Workshops
Thurs: MFA 5A – Dissertation - Lectures/Seminars/Tutorials
Fri: MFA 5C – Studio Work III – Critiques/Independent Study
Block 13
November on-site As above
Block 14
December on-site As above
Block 15
January on-site As above
Block 16
February on-site As above
Block 17
March on-site Mon: Studio Work III – Workshops/Tutorials/Independent Study
Tues: MFA 5A – Dissertation – Independent Study/Tutorials
Weds: MFA 5C – Studio Work – Visiting Artists/Workshops
Thurs: MFA 5A – Dissertation - Lectures/Seminars/Tutorials
Fri: MFA 5C – Studio Work III – Critiques/Independent Study
Block 18
April on-site As above

Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for UK and international students

£7,500 per year (2021/22)

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.

Postgraduate loans

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

Student Scholarships and Bursaries are also available

find out more about funding

Fine Art 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

Fine Art Visit to De La Warr Pavilion

By Dr David Stent, Fine Art Subject Leader Recently, full-time Fine Art students – studying on the Graduate Diploma and the Master of Fine Arts programmes – made a group visit to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-upon-Sea, joined by members of staff and a few Friends of West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. They were given a personal tour of the current Renee So... Find out more

Banner Culture at the British Textile Biennial 2019

A banner made during a workshop at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation is currently on exhibition as part of the British Textile Biennial 2019. Banner Culture presents a retrospective history of protest in the UK, from traditional processional banners from heritage collections to contemporary DIY messages from local campaign groups. The exhibition is open in the iconic Brierfield... Find out more

Visual Arts MA Show 2019

The MA Show 2019 showcases artworks by graduating students from the Visual Arts MA programme at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. The free exhibition, held in the College's Edward James Studios, will display painting, sculpture and textiles from Emma Hurst, Dennis Joroen and Emma Straw.

Preview: Thursday 12 September, 5-7pm Open: Friday 13 September - Sunday 15 September... Find out more

Visual Arts Exhibit in Margate

The Visual Arts programmes were recently showcased with an exhibition on Margate seafront, hosted by a brand new space, Artgame, a short walk from Turner Contemporary. This was the latest iteration of the 'external' show staged by West Dean Visual Arts - including work from graduating students from the Graduate Diploma and MFA programmes - which have in previous years taken place in... Find out more

Finalist for Prestigious Australian Tapestry Award

by Emma Straw, MA Visual Arts student

Every two years the Australian Tapestry Workshop announces an open call, The Kate Derum and Irene Davies Award for Emerging Tapestry Artists. When the award was announced earlier this year I had just completed the Creative Research Strategies module on the MA Visual Arts programme here at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation; the research... Find out more


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.

Poppy Jones

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.

Rebecca Partridge

Year 1 Lead Tutor

Rebecca is an artist, writer and curator who has been exhibiting internationally since graduating from the Royal Academy Schools in 2007. While primarily a painter, her interests include cross-disciplinary approaches to landscape, contemporary Romanticism, synaesthesia and perception, with current curatorial research into the connections between contemporary painting and historical Land Art. She has been a lecturer at West Dean since 2012.  

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. 

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.