Still accepting applications for September 2017 entry

Duration: 1 academic year (36 weeks pa) full time

The Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts offers you the opportunity to spend one academic year consolidating your existing practice, either in a specific discipline or across different media. Whether focused on the study of Painting and Drawing, Sculpture or Tapestry and Textile Art, the emphasis of the Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts is on practical, studio-based skills, underpinned by theoretical research, contextual studies and professional development.

Postgraduate Diploma students can expect:

  • A stimulating and supportive learning environment in which to develop their creative practice at an advanced level
  • Support in consolidating interdisciplinary, specialist and collaborative studio work through access to advanced facilities and technical expertise
  • To apply critical thinking and contextual knowledge in the development of a detailed understanding of key aspects of their field of study
  • To articulate an informed, critical understanding of studio practice in the context of contemporary art and visual culture
  • To evaluate established techniques of research, analysis and inquiry within their chosen discipline
  • Opportunities to display work to a professional standard in various contexts
  • Support for developing transferable skills such as self-management, communication, collaboration, IT and research skills
  • Increased independence and self-reliance applicable for further study, practice or employment

Learning Environment:

  • Large individual studio spaces
  • An excellent staff-to-student ratio with the possibility for weekly tutorial support
  • A specialised programme of lectures, seminars and workshops
  • Input from regular Visiting Lecturers and artists
  • Expert support for a dedicated team of workshop technicians
  • Professional development provision for gallery visits and other external events
  • Contact with a regular series of professional Artists-in-Residence based in the Visual Arts studios throughout the academic year
  • An immersive environment with rich connections to art history, particularly Surrealism, through the legacy of college founder Edward James.

Student Perspective

"West Dean is an amazing place to live and study. There are very few colleges where I could combine large scale drawing, felt-making and blacksmithing during an MFA.

The studio spaces, facilities and tutor support in the Visual Arts Department at West Dean are world class. Having access to the studios from 8.30am until 10pm, 7 days a week with full technician support, means that I can fully immerse myself in my work and prepare for life as a practicing artist." Kate Boucher, Postgraduate Diploma Visual Arts


All full-time Visual Arts students are provided with a large individual workspace in the Edward James Studios. In addition to specialist spaces dedicated to Painting and Drawing, Sculpture and Tapestry and Textile-based work, the studios also include Seminar Room, a materials and tool store, a small photographic darkroom, bookable exhibition and research spaces, plus an IT suite with digital editing software. A self-contained Print Room offers specialist facilities for etching, aquatint, monoprinting, woodblock and linocut. Students can work on a large-scale in the Sculpture Courtyard, which is also suitable for work in stone carving.

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. The Short Course programme also allows students to access a wide range of visiting tutors and specialist techniques that can further enhance their studies.

West Dean House and Estate offers students access to ambitious exhibition opportunities and unique research material. Students are able to submit site-specific proposals throughout the year and are encouraged to take part in the annual Open House event. The Edward James Collection is an outstanding resource for full-time students, given them access to a range of significant, even iconic, works of art as an ongoing source of inspiration and research.

The College's Arts and Conservation Library gives students access to thousands of specialist books, journals and databases to support their studies.

The Main House also contains West Dean Tapestry Studio, one of the world's leading producers of hand-woven tapestry. As well as having close contact with the expertise of Master Weavers and designers, students have access to the studio's Dye Rooms, a specialist facility for the dyeing of yarn. Find out more about the professional Tapestry Studio here.

Entry Requirements

The following qualifications will be considered for entry on to the Postgraduate Diploma

A good Honours Degree or equivalent qualification in Visual Arts 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 studio work, supporting research and evidence of critical writing. An appropriate level of engagement with current debates in and around contemporary art is essential

English Language requirement

English Language: CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level B2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.


Sarah Cliff, Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts.
Jane Fremantle, Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts.
Freestroke with Red Sun and Triangle, oil on canvas by Alison Davies. Postgraduate Diploma, Visual Arts.
Visual Arts Sculpture Court Yard.
June Ngan, Postgraduate Diploma Visual Arts.


  • UK/EU Fee: £ 10,245
  • International: £13,140
    Fees payable by term, 2 weeks in advance of term start date.

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.


Funding available - find out more


David Stent

Visual Arts Programme Leader, Dr. David R J Stent is an artist, writer, curator and musician. His diverse practice draws on various media including drawing, photography, digital and print publishing, film and video, sonic and sculptural installation.

Philip Sanderson

Philip Sanderson studied both at Middlesex University and the Royal College of Art before joining the Professional Tapestry Studio at West Dean College in 1993, and his current role is as a Master Weaver Designer. Philip has designed tapestries for numerous clients, notably for the New Parliamentary Buildings in Westminster.

Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is Research Assistant at West Dean College and Visiting Lecturer on the full-time Visual Arts programmes . She is a practicing artist, performer, and composer, working across sculpture, improvised music, composition and publishing.

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

Apply for Degree and Diploma courses

Applications open for September 2017 entry for UK, EU and International students.

Learn more about applying and entry

Find out about Funding opportunities here