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Duration: 1 calendar year (46 weeks) full time

The MA Conservation Studies equips you with the high level specialist skills sought by the conservation sector. The focus is on research through practice, drawing on conceptual, theoretical and critical aspects of the field. This is a rigorous programme that runs concurrently with the Postgraduate Diploma and involves delivery of a major research project.

You will follow one of the following specialisms for Postgraduate Diploma, progressing onto the MA: Conservation of Books, Ceramics, Clocks, Furniture or Metalwork.

You can expect

  • To undertake research through practice
  • Theoretical, scientific and analytical study of artefacts and materials
  • Analysis of the context and practice of conservation
  • Independent learning
  • To undertake a major research project
  • To deliver a professional standard thesis

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Workshop access 7am-10pm, 7 days a week
  • An interdisciplinary environment
  • Teaches students to understand and apply Icon's Professional Standards in Conservation
  • Visiting lecturers from public and private institutions

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 MA Conservation Studies 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 and writing up your final dissertation.

Overall workload

33% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity.
Scheduled teaching and learning: 599 hours, Independent learning: 1201 hours.

Programme Structure

Programme Structure


You will work in dedicated, well-equipped workshops and studios. Facilities include an analytical laboratory and computer suite. The on-site Art and Conservation Library gives you access to specialist databases and thousands of specialist books and journals.

Collaboration with other conservation specialisms makes for a uniquely enriched learning environment.

Entry requirements

A first degree in Conservation or related subject. If your first degree is in an unrelated subject you can still attain the MA Conservation Studies by first doing the Graduate Diploma, then a single stage Postgraduate Diploma transition into the MA programme. The path to MA is therefore two years, without a relevant undergraduate degree.

You will be able to demonstrate a considered research question.

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


  • UK/EU Fee: £18,080
  • International: £18,080

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.

Funding available, find out about funding here.

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.



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

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.


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

Lorna Calcutt (MA ACR)

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

Tristram Bainbridge (MA ACR)

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.

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

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 for Degree and Diploma courses

Applications are welcome from UK/EU and International students.

Learn more about applying and entry

Find out about Funding opportunities here