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Join us for our next Open Day​ on Saturday 9 February 2019.

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MA Conservation Studies
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. This rigorous and highly respected programme draws on an extensive sector network, nationally and internationally, including industry bodies such as Icon.

The focus 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. You will also deliver a major final research project.

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

  • Books and Library Materials
  • Ceramics and Related Materials
  • Clocks and Related Objects
  • Furniture and Related Objects
  • Metalwork

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

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Workshop access 7am-10pm, 7 days a week
  • An interdisciplinary environment
  • Visiting lecturers from public and private institutions

(Subject to re-validation)

Contact Hours


On the MA Conservation Studies you will 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: 600 hours, Independent learning: 1200 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

An upper 2nd class or above UK Honours degree in an appropriate subject or a non-UK equivalent. In the absence of a BA, the requirement will be demonstrable research and writing abilities commensurate with BA level.

Students typically enter at Graduate Diploma level and progress onto the MA Conservation Studies for year two. Progression from Graduate Diploma to Master's requires successful completion of level 6 with an average grade no less than 2. Applicants with experience equivalent to the Graduate year may enter directly at Master's stage.

International students will require English language CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level B2 or ILETS 6.5. Applicants are interviewed and required to undertake practical and observational tests.



  • £4,153 per term (£16,612 per year)


  • £4,153 per term (£16,612 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.

Additional costs

Lunch, accommodation and other living expenses are additional, available on request.

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

Dr Eric Nordgren

Metalwork Conservation Studies Co-ordinator
Dr Eric Nordgren (AFHEA) 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.

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

Applications are welcome from UK/EU and International students.

The deadline for applications for 2019 entry is 1 March 2019 (with the exception of Conservation of Books and Library Materials, which is 1 February 2019).

Learn more about applying and entry

Find out about funding opportunities