Conservation of Books and Library Materials

Postgraduate Diploma Conservation of Books and Library Materials

The next Open Day will take place on Friday 2 December 2016 and Saturday 4 February 2017. Learn more

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


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

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.


You will work in a purpose-built space for book conservation with two workshops as well as a finishing 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


  • UK/EU Fee: £13,140
  • International: £13,140
    (Students have the option to pay fees in instalments by term, 2 weeks in advance of term start date).

    Funding available, find out about funding here.

Application deadline for 2017 entry: 1 February, 2017.

New 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.



Sonja Schwoll (MA ACR)

Sonja is an independent book conservator accredited by Icon with her own book conservation studio in London. Since 2010 she has been associate tutor on the book conservation programme at West Dean College.

Abigail Bainbridge (MA)

Abigail Bainbridge teaches book conservation at West Dean and worked in the book conservation lab at Columbia University and as a freelance conservator at Paper Dragon Books in New York City

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.

+44 (0)1243 818 291

Help preserve our future

West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

Find out how you can help support us