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Duration: 1 calendar year (46 weeks) full time
Applications still open for Ceramics and Metalwork for 2020/21
Applications open for all specialisms for 2021/22

Scholarships and bursaries available from £500 to £10,000. Read more about funding opportunities

The MA Conservation Studies equips you with the high level specialist skills sought by the conservation sector. For students of English, History, Archaeology and varied Humanities disciplines Conservation offers an exciting career.

This rigorous and highly respected programme draws on an extensive sector network, nationally and internationally, including industry bodies such as Icon. The Masters in Conservation Studies is the global industry standard for conservation, and our alumni work in many of the most prestigious museums, archives, libraries and private practices across the world. 

The course focuses is on research through practice. You will draw on theoretical, scientific, and analytical study of artefacts and materials, and analyse the context and practice of conservation. MA Conservation Studies students deliver a major final research project.

Elements of interdisciplinary work are involved, but you will choose from one of the specialisms below:

All disciplines are accessible from both humanities and science study backgrounds.

You can expect

  • To develop excellent practical skills
  • To develop research skills
  • To incorporate scientific analysis into conservation projects
  • To build contacts and gain transferable skills

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Workshop access
  • An interdisciplinary environment
  • Visiting lecturers from public and private institutions
  • Six week work placement

The content of this programme has been developed in line with the Institute of Conservation's Professional Standards in Conservation and the UK Quality Code for Higher Education.


You will work in dedicated, well-equipped workshops and studios with access from 8.30am to 10pm*, seven days a week, which is exceptional in higher education. Collaboration with other conservation specialisms makes for a uniquely enriched learning environment. Shared facilities include:

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.

* 26 June 2020 update: Workshops may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning.

Find out more about the facilities

Contact Hours


On the MA Conservation Studies you will typically have around 19-20 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 5-6 hours of lectures or demonstrations
  • 1-2 hours of seminars and peer to peer presentations
  • 10 hours of workshop time with a supervisor
  • 1 hour of tutorials to discuss practical projects and more formal tutorials

For semester 2, outside of the work placement, you will continue to have full workshop access and have 10 contact hours per week in the above areas.

For semester 3 you will continue to have full workshop access and have approximately 1 hour tutorial time per week.

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars and workshops 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, preparing coursework assignments and presentations and undertaking and writing up your final research project.

Overall workload

Total scheduled teaching and learning: 600 hours
Independent learning: 1200 hours

In semester 1, 41% of your time will be spent in scheduled learning activities or under supervision.
In semester 2, 25% of your time will be spent in supervised activities.
In semester 3, you will be expected to work independently with tutorial support.

26 June 2020 update: International study trips have been suspended and we aim to recommence UK field trips and visits in the second semester, to comply with current opening restrictions and social distancing.

Programme structure

Semester 1 (18 weeks)
Study block 1 (12 weeks)


Extending Practice (50 credits)

Unit MA1B

Conservation Science Analysis (10 credits)

Unit MA1C

Research studies and project design (10 credits)

Semester 2 (14 weeks)
Study block 3 (6 weeks)


Professional Practice (35 credits)


Work placement element

Study block 4 (8 weeks)


Professional Practice (cont.) (35 credits)


Unit MA1RP

Project Development (15 credits)

Semester 3 (14 weeks)
Study block 5 

Unit MA2RP

Project Realisation (60 credits)



Entry requirements

Progression from the Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies to Masters requires successful completion of the graduate programme with a good pass.

Applicants with conservation experience and scientific knowledge equivalent to the Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies may enter directly on to the Masters programme, in which case an upper 2nd class or above UK Honours degree in an appropriate subject or a non-UK equivalent is required. Alternatively, accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) will be considered for those who have been out of formal education for some years and are over 21, who do not meet the general (minimum) entrance requirements, but who can demonstrate practical skills or evidence of practical interests and research and writing abilities commensurate with BA level.

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

Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for UK and international students

  • £4,260 per term (£17,040 per year)

Included is mandatory study trip costs of £400, which typically includes tailored visits to collections/exhibitions of specific interest to the programme of study. Lunch, accommodation and other living expenses are additional. Find out more

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 from £500 to £10,000.

Find out more about funding opportunities


The College’s extensive links with museums, conservators and professional bodies in the heritage sector in the UK, EU and internationally, opens up an impressive range of opportunities for the six week work placements that MA Conservation Studies students typically undertake.

Recent placement host institutions include:
Amsterdam City Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago, Bodleian Library, Brighton Pavilion, British Museum, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Heritage Blacksmith Partnership, Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Palace Library, Leiden University Library, Library of Congress, Maritime Museum Rotterdam, National Museum of American History, Notarial Archives, Malta, Oxford Conservation Consortium, Richard Rogers Conservation, Royal Collection Trust, Royal Museums Greenwich, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and Yale University Library.

From the MA, alumni work with public and private collections and include professional conservators in high profile museums and libraries nationally and internationally. Some pursue a career path into collections care, or work as independent conservators, advisors or tutors. Alumni have gone on to work at the British Museum, Royal Collections, National Maritime Museum, Royal Swedish Palaces, Windsor Castle, Gold Museum (Bogota Colombia) and Columbia University Library (Columbia, USA).

Image: Tabea Rude Aluma, Photo Credit Michael Goldrei. Tabea is the Dynamic Objects Conservator at the Wien Museum, (Vienna Clock Museum, Austria) and looks after a collection of around 4,000 clocks.

Read more in our interviews with alumni


Commendations from the University of Sussex include:

"This re-validation further builds on the success of the courses, which have been refined over a number of years to produce excellent results."

"The professional networking opportunities provided through external collaborations and the opportunities for students to disseminate their work to an external audience."


Elizabeth Neville MA ACR

Head of School of Conservation

Elizabeth Neville has over thirty years' experience as a book conservator, interspersed with teaching and supervising on the Graduate Diploma in Books and Library Materials and MA Conservation Studies courses at West Dean.

Malcolm Archer FBHI

Subject Leader, Clocks (and Related Objects)

Malcolm's extensive experience in private practice, as well as the heritage sector/museums, lies behind his in-depth understanding of the profession. He brings a comprehensive knowledge of traditional craft skills, theory and contextual history. He also has an interest in new and innovative ways of applying conservation to mechanical objects.

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 the College in 2017 after many years at the British Library.

Lorna Calcutt MA ACR

Subject Leader, Ceramics (and Related Materials)

Lorna has been a tutor then Subject Leader at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation for 16 years and prior to that was employed as a conservator in national institutions and in the private sector.

Dr Eric Nordgren AFHEA

Subject Leader, Conservation of Metalwork

Dr Eric Nordgren brings over 20 years' experience as a metals conservator working with museums, universities, heritage agencies and private practice in the UK and around the world. He is active in the Icon Metals and Heritage Science groups, and is an associate member of AIC, ICOM-CC and the Historical Metallurgy Society.

Abigail Bainbridge MA ACR

Subject Tutor, Conservation of 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 as well as actively teaching workshops in bookbinding and book conservation internationally.

Tristram Bainbridge MA ACR

Subject Tutor, Furniture and Related Objects

Tristram works as a contract furniture conservator at the V&A and in private practice. He has lectured in conservation at the City and Guilds of London and at Camberwell College of Art.

David Dorning (MA ACR FIIC)

Subject Tutor, Conservation Science

David is a book and paper conservation specialist who has tutored more than a generation of book conservators since he began as a tutor in book conservation at West Dean College in 1988. He has taught science for conservators in the UK, USA and Europe, established the analytical laboratory at West Dean College in 2007 and has been the college's science tutor for 25 years.

Tim Hughes

Subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects)

Tim Hughes MBHI, clock maker, trained at West Dean College and works as a clockmaker and scientific instrument restorer, and as external consultant at Bellmans Auctioneers. He has received several awards, including the Trustees' Prize while at West Dean College and a QEST Scholarship. 

Lara Meredith

Subject Tutor, Conservation of Books

Lara Meredith became a Book & Archive Conservator after graduating from Camberwell College of Arts.  Lara has been working as a Freelance Book & Archive Conservator since 1999 including work with The National Trust, The Leather Conservation Centre and private clients.

Katrina Redman

Subject Tutor, Metalwork

Katrina specialises in metals conservation and gained her Postgraduate Diploma in Metals Conservation from West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. She has worked in private practice, as well as at the V&A Museum working on the Gilbert Collection. In 2018, Katrina returned to West Dean College to take up the role of Subject Tutor for Metals.

Janet Sinclair BA (Hons), MPhil, PGCE (Collegiate), Dip ILM, CELTA

Subject Tutor, Collections Care and Conservation Management

Janet Sinclair is subject tutor on the CCCM MA course in the School of Conservation. Janet is an art historian, curator and lecturer, educated at the Courtauld Institute, Bretton Hall and the Barber Institute, Birmingham, where her MPhil was on the history of British collecting and she taught for many years.

Jasmina Vučković MA ACR

Subject Tutor, Ceramics (and Related Materials)

Jasmina Vuckovic is Subject Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. She has been a visiting lecturer at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation prior to becoming a subject tutor in 2018. Jasmina is a member of ICOM and accredited member of Icon.

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.