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MA Conservation Studies
Duration: 1 calendar year (46 weeks) full time

Register now for Open Day on Friday 6 December.
Find out about funding opportunities.

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. 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:

  • Books and Library Materials
  • Ceramics and Related Materials
  • Clocks and Related Objects (Horology)
  • Furniture and Related Objects
  • Metalwork

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 8.30am-10pm, 7 days a week
  • 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.

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
  • 2 hours of external trips and visits (on average)
  • 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.

Programme Structure

Programme Structure

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.


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.

Additional costs

Lunch, accommodation and other living expenses are additional. Find out more

Student scholarships and bursaries

Scholarship and bursary awards are available for students who have accepted an offer to study at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. Applicants for a scholarship award should show outstanding potential and a commitment to their studies and future career in their chosen subject. Applicants for a bursary award are required to demonstrate financial need.

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

Find out more about funding opportunities


Graduates have interned at Royal Observatory Greenwich and worked at The British Museum, The Clockworks (London) and Wienmuseum (Australia).

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

Lead tutor MA Conservation Studies

Subject Leader, Ceramics (and Related Materials)

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.

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

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

Norbert Gutowski

Subject Leader, Furniture & Related Objects

Associate Fellow of the HEA

Norbert is a furniture maker - conservator with almost two decades of tutoring experience, who has also worked extensively as a fine antique furniture conservator- restorer.

Dr Eric Nordgren AFHEA

Metalwork Conservation Studies Co-ordinator

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.

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 ACR

Associate Tutor, 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 at Columbia University and taught Conservation Science at Camberwell College of Art, as well as actively teaching workshops in bookbinding and book conservation internationally.

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.

Open Day - register today

Come and find out what makes West Dean College of Arts and Conservation such an amazing place to study. Explore the studios, take a tour with students, discuss your study options, and find out about funding at our next Open Day on:

Friday 6 December 2019

Register your place and find out more