Fine Art

Postgraduate Diploma Visual Arts

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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.

Contact Hours


You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical workshops, individual and group tutorials, critique sessions, oral and written presentations.

On the Postgraduate Diploma you typically have around 12-13 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 2 hours of lectures
  • 1-2 hours of seminars
  • 1 hour of one-to-one/group tutorials
  • 1 hour of critique sessions
  • 5 hours of practical workshops
  • 1 hours 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, and preparing presentations and self-assessments.

Overall workload

Postgraduate Diploma: 38 per cent of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity

Scheduled teaching and learning: 460 hours

Independent learning: 740 hours

Programme Structure

Programme Structure


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.

Visual Arts Summer Show - Angel Cake

The Visual Arts Summer Shows for 2018, taking place first at West Dean and then in London. The exhibitions showcase the work of students graduating from the full-time Visual Arts programmes, including Graduate Diploma and Master's degrees, as well as interim exhibitions by first year MFA students. Find out more

View a gallery from the show

Virtual Tour and Gallery

Visual Arts Studio space.
Sarah Cliff, Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts.
Christopher Walker, Critical Paths Visual Arts Summer Show
Visual Arts Students with Curator Dr Annabelle Gorgen Lammers from Hamburger Kunsthalle
Cherie Lubbock, Critical Paths Summer Show
Jane Fremantle, Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts.
June Ngan, Postgraduate Diploma Visual Arts.

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.


  • UK/EU Fee: £10,590
  • 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 £250, 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.

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.


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.

Artists in Residence Programme

The Artist-in-Residence programme sees a series of professional artists living and working onsite, amongst Visual Arts students. They offer tutorial sessions with students as well as public presentations on the work produced during the residency and their wider practice.

Find out more

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

Visual Arts Blog

Delve into Visual Arts department news, events and student and staff work on the Visual Arts blog.


David Stent

Visual Arts Subject 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 a Subject Tutor and Curatorial Assistant at West Dean College 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.

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