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Duration: 2 academic years (36 weeks pa) full time course
Applications open
Next main funding application deadline: 1 August 2022
Scholarships and bursaries available up to £3,000 | Read more about funding

Register your place at our Q&A sessions to meet students and alumni

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. 

Learning environment

  • Large individual studio spaces
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Large individual studios and outdoor facilities 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.

Fine Art facilities at West Dean College


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:

  • 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.

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 updateWorkshops and studio spaces may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning.

see 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

Summer Show 2022

There were two Fine Art exhibitions this summer. The first was the annual Summer Show the culmination of the academic year, presented in the Edward James Studios. The second was ANY DAY NOW, a group show at Copeland Gallery in London. The exhibitions displayed a diverse range of practices including sculpture, installation, print, painting, film, ceramics, and textiles.

Visit the Summer Show 2021

"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

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 Master of Fine Art (MFA) 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 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

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)
Study block 1 Formative review Study block 2

Unit VA MFA 1A

Creative Research Strategies

15 credits

Unit VA MFA 1B

Application of Philosophical Aesthetics

15 credits

Unit VA MFA 1C

Studio work

35 credits

Year 1 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)
Study block 3 Formative review Study block 4

Unit VA MFA 3A

Art Research and Criticality

20 credits

Unit VA MFA 3C

Studio work 2 (interim exhibition)

40 credits

Year 2 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)
Study block 1 Formative review Study block 2

Unit VA MFA 5A


20 credits

Unit VA MFA 5C

Studio work 3

40 credits

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

Unit VA MFA 7A

Professional Practice

15 credits

Unit VA MFA 7C

Studio work 4 (summer show)

45 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.

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

Scholarships and bursaries are available up to £3,000. 

Find out more about funding
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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."

Student perspective

"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

Artist in Residence Programme

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.

Find out more


"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.

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

Read more 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.

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.