Conservation of Books and Library Materials

Postgraduate Diploma Conservation of Books and Library Materials

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Applications closed for 2018/2019 and now accepting applications for 2019/2020.

Duration: 1 academic year (36 weeks) full time

An international reputation for book conservation skills.
Working on live projects, you will apply professional book conservation treatments and critical analysis of treatments. Study of historical book structures will entail research in order to make an accurate model of a chosen historical book structure. In Conservation theory and practice you will explore exhibition issues, metal components of books, paper conservation, disaster response and materials science.

You can expect

  • To develop excellent practical skills through object-based treatments
  • To work on live projects, taking part in decision-making and applying professional conservation treatments
  • To perform historical research and interpretation of the objects you work on
  • To work with materials from library and archive collections

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Interdisciplinary environment
  • Workshop access 7am-10pm, 7 days a week
  • Teaches students to understand and apply Icon's Professional Standards in Conservation
  • Visits to collections

Contact Hours


You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, external trips and visits, work placement and workshop practicals. In addition, you have personal tutorials with your subject tutor.

On the Postgraduate Diploma you typically have around 15-16 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 3-4 hours of lectures
  • 1 hour of seminars
  • 8 hours of supervised workshop practicals (including time spent on placement)
  • 2 hours of external trips & visits (on average)
  • 1 hour of one-to-one meetings/tutorials

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars and workshop or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library and preparing coursework assignments and presentations.

Overall workload

Postgraduate Diploma: 47% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity.
Scheduled teaching and learning: 565 hours, Independent learning: 635 hours.

Programme Structure


You will work in a purpose-built space for book conservation with two workshops as well as a bindery with individual student work benches and a demonstration bench. The bindery is fully equipped with sewing and forwarding equipment, board chopper, light boxesfinishing room and science lab. Students each have their own benches with storage and can access the studio from 7am to 10pm, allowing them to take full advantage of their time at West Dean. You will also have access to facilities shared with other departments, including the analytical laboratory, photography space, IT suite, and specialist library.

The on-site Art and Conservation Library puts thousands of specialist books and journals within your reach and you can access specialist databases in the IT suite.

Find out more about facilities here

Entry requirements

To join the PGDip/MA programme you will need to have a good first degree in Conservation or a closely related field; or have completed a Graduate Diploma in a closely related subject; or demonstrate an equivalent proficiency in basic conservation science, academic skills (research, writing and critical analysis) and practical hand skills, including manual sensitivity and dexterity. Progression to the MA is subject to the successful completion of the first semester and the identification of an appropriate MA project. Students may choose to exit the programme at the Postgraduate Diploma stage.

International students will require English language CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level B2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.


  • UK/EU Fee: £13,560
  • International: £13,560

Tuition fees include much more than is typical of universities, i.e. tuition fees plus basic materials, lunch, morning/afternoon tea/coffee. Included is mandatory study trip cost of £400, which typically includes tailored visits to collections/exhibitions of specific interest to the programme of study. For one day study trips lunch is provided, while for residential study trips meals are not included.

Additional costs
Accommodation and living expenses are additional.

Currently a third of all tuition fees are met through bursary or scholarship funding.
In 16/17 almost 60% of students were in receipt of some support. Find out about funding here.

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 £10,000 to help with course fees and living costs.



From the Postgraduate Diploma students often progress to MA Conservation Studies.

Work as a conservation professional in a museum, library or archive, with public and private collections. Pursue a career path into collections care and management or as an independent book conservator. Graduates have gone on to work on books at The Bodleian Library in Oxford, Admiralty Library, Portsmouth, Wimborne Minster Library, Chichester Cathedral Library Collection and the Dutch National Archive.

"I am working as a book and paper conservator at Temple Bookbinders in Oxford. In my first month alone, I've repaired dust-jackets, prepared books for re-sewing, patched up damaged leather, and re-backed a number of books for a variety of clients.

I know for certain that without the diploma from West Dean College, I would have struggled to get the work I now have, and I have been told by my new employer that the reputation of the college was a significant factor in his decision to take me on."

Benjamin Pointer, Postgraduate Diploma, Conservation of Books and Related Materials

Student Perspective

"I'm currently studying for the MA, Conservation of Books and Library Materials. I found my time here really valuable and particularly enjoyed being able to work on objects from places such as the Admiralty Library and all the objects in general we've been given to work on. The external links have been really beneficial; I was able to utilise my tutor's links with the British Library and that secured me a place in January for my work placement.

Recently I have been accepted to work for Parliamentary Archives which will be located in the Houses of Parliament. Hopefully I'll be working on a lot of parchment including Acts and Bills that have passed through parliament and are now currently in the Act Room, including the death warrant of Charles 1 which will be really interesting. I will probably be doing a lot of conservation treatment of objects like that and doing some re-housing, as well as exhibition loan work and travelling to other museums."

Charlotte Grimsdell
Postgraduate Diploma/MA Conservation Studies


Mariluz Beltran de Guevara ACR

Mariluz Beltran de Guevara ACR - Subject Leader Conservation of Books

Mariluz Beltran de Guevara has been an accredited book and paper conservator since 2008, and joined West Dean College in 2017 after many years at the British Library.

Abigail Bainbridge MA ACR

Associate Tutor, Books

Abigail Bainbridge co-owns Bainbridge Conservation, specialising in the conservation of books and paper for private clients and institutions. She has worked as a conservator at Columbia University and taught Conservation Science at Camberwell College of Art, as well as actively teaching workshops in bookbinding and book conservation internationally.

Program advisors

Jane Eagan: Book Conservator Oxford Colleges Conservation Consortium

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.

Apply now for Degree and Diploma study

Apply now: we are still accepting applications for all subjects for 2019 entry

Applications are welcome from UK/EU and International students.

Learn more about applying and entry

Find out about funding opportunities